Evie Boyd is the 14 year old daughter of separated and uninterested parents, whose imagination is caught one day by the sight of three girls – carefree and unselfconsciously different to everyone that surrounds her – walking through her boring, suburban life and, through a chance encounter, is slowly drawn onto the periphery of life at The Ranch, with its supposedly freewheeling lifestyle and charismatic leader, Russell. Drawn especially to Suzanne, one of The Girls that surrounds Russell, Evie watches from the sidelines as things start to turn sour, and is left wondering if she could have been one of The Girls on That Night had things turned out slightly differently.
A coming of age novel that’s based on the Manson Family, on paper The Girls should have been my kind of catnip, obsessed as I am with true crime. However, in practice, I felt that it mostly relied a little too heavily on knowledge of the real-life personalities and their crimes to get that shiver of recognition and foreboding rather than standing on its own merits.
Told in two separate strands – Evie as teenager and Evie as middle-aged house-sitter – this felt really unnecessary as, aside from hints of how Evie’s association with The Ranch has tinged her with notoriety ever since, nothing of any interest really happened in the older strand to justify its inclusion. The language throughout felt at times overly decorative, although it did conjure well for me the slightly stoned feel of the sixties.
The Girls wasn’t a bad book, but given how much I’d looked forward to reading on hearing its description, it was very underwhelming one.