Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerising older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader.
Let’s cut to the chase, apparently this book is based off of the Manson murders and the cult culture that developed in their build-up. I don’t remember the murders themselves and the media frenzy never really interested me until I looked into this book. My partner on the other hand has been invested in this piece of history for a long time and has read quite a few books on the subject so opinion on this novel was divided in our house.
The story starts with a female protagonist called Evie who bored with her life, her friends and her family, becomes involved with a group of the young women who belong to a way of life centred around a man whom has caught them all up within himself and they’ve somehow tagged along. In this book you don’t get much of the preaching and brain-washing that may have gone on to persuade these girls to do the deeds they did in real life but this fictional account gives a very firm idea of the parties and intoxication that happened within the camp. It’s very much party, party, party with a bittersweet taste of young women led down a garden path of sexual oppression.
Even though I could see her getting on other reader’s nerves I found Evie to be quite likeable and even though she was being swayed by getting involved with these girls she still remains to be a character that I enjoyed following. Sometimes you can read a book and your stomach literally drops when you can see a character making a really crappy decision and you know it’s gonna bite them in the arse later down the line but Evie didn’t want to make me shout at the pages for once. I felt myself getting quite caught up in the world Cline describes with Evie because she is crafted as being an older woman looking back on her life’s mistakes and this makes the reading to be quite comfortable.
Evie is a woman who has taken years to process her experiences and tells her history as someone whom is looking back on her teenage years with the wisdom of living a scorned life – not some dumb girl who doesn’t have her wits about her writing an episodic-like account of her time within a cult. It’s clear that Evie is swept up by the whirlwind of an older woman, Suzanne, who she isn’t shy on admitting she fell in love with and then tumbles into the package that comes with her and this means the Manson family way of life.
The book is bursting with quotes about women, love, sex and drugs that can’t be missed. Cline writes so well retrospectively but she also has a talent for immersing her audience into the here and now of whatever setting she is painting alongside this. I totally enjoyed reading this but the only thing that frustrated me was how Evie, a fourteen year old girl, can run off and kind-of-accidentally join a cult without her parents even noticing and get away with not even being instigated in the murder that happens near the end.
There’s few threads to pull in this book and I was surprised to discover that this is actually a debut so I’ll be keeping an eye out for what comes next.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.