Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

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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 mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted.

As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Publish Date: 14th June 2016

Goodreads

This was a novel that was loosely based on the infamous Manson murders that took place in 1969.

I honestly had never even heard the name Charles Manson before I picked up this book and as someone who is morbidly interested in these kinds of things, I found it quite good that from the book, I could go over and do my own research on these famous murders and in the end walk away with much more knowledge on it.

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So this book follows Evie, a girl who is struggling to find her footing after her parents get a divorce and start seeing other people. She is pretty lost until one day she sees a group of girls in the park.

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The Mason girls on the way to court.

After a couple of chance encounters, Evie starts to get mesmerised by these girls and eventually, one of the girls, Suzanne, invites her to their home which is in a ranch. At the ranch, Evie meets their ‘leader’, Russell, as well as the other girls and their children.

There it was again, their wonder at Russell, their certainty. I was jealous of that trust, that someone else could stitch the empty parts of your life together so you felt there was a net under you, linking each day to the next.

As Evie gets lost in the world that is Russell and Suzanne and the ranch, she gets lulled into this false pretence of family and finding her place in the world.

Eventually the story comes to a climax and essentially if you are familiar with the Manson murders, then you will know how this book ends.

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Charles Manson

I really wanted to enjoy this but I just felt like the writing style was very pretentious and a lot of the book was just really boring because nothing happens.

I mean there were a lot of parts that just simply didn’t make sense like this bit:

I ate in the blunt way I had as a child—a glut of spaghetti, mossed with cheese. The nothing jump of soda in my throat.

What the heck is a ‘nothing jump’?

I quite honestly don’t know why or how I finished this book. I mean part of me was just so eager to finish it and just be done with it.

I mean I know there were a lot of bits that were just really raw and honest and yes I appreciated that. But the language used was unnecessarily complicated.

Another thing I hated about this book was how badly men were portrayed. Granted that the men Evie associated herself with were generally the not so nice types but every single man in the book was portrayed as a horrible being. I would think the author has some personal agenda against men or something the way she wrote about them.

I honestly don’t have an in depth review for you for this book because most of it was dull and I was just trying to get through it. I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you are looking for more information on the Manson murders, there are loads of resources online. Also, if you really must read a book on it, you can try ‘My Favourite Manson Girl‘. I haven’t read it but I’ve heard amazing things about it. Just skip this book.

*An advanced copy of this book was provided to me to read and review however all opinions are my own*

My-Rating-2-Stars

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Review: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

Published: 16th February 2016

Goodreads

If you’ve been here a while, you would know that I absolutely adore historical fiction and even just history in general. My favourite though would be the history of Nazi Germany. I don’t know why but something about Hitler’s rule and WWII has always fascinated me immensely and because of that, I pride myself on knowing as much as I can about it.

So when I heard of Salt and The Sea and found out that it was about WWII and about the Wilhelm Gustloff, which was deemed the ‘single greatest tragedy in maritime history’, I was very surprised. How could I not know about a ship that was torpedoed and upon which over 9,000 people died? How did that happen?

Turns out that a lot of people actually knew nothing about the Wilhelm Gustloff. Apparently it was something of a secret of war. Apparently this disaster was greater then the Titanic. The Titanic?? I mean I am obsessed with the Titanic and it’s sinking and to me, that’s the worst thing that ever happened out at sea. How did I not know about this greater tragedy?

It really made me realise that there is still a lot that we do not know about WWII and that we might never know.

Plot

I did a lot of research into the Wilhelm Gustloff while reading and after reading Salt To The Sea and I was very happy to see that Ruta really did her research and portrayed a very accurate picture of what happened on the 30th of January 1945 as well as what happened before that.

She actually interviewed survivors of the tragedy and that was how she built her story which I always highly respect.

The story flowed very well and I enjoyed the short but impactful chapters that overall aided in making the story worth that much more.

Characters 

The book was narrated by 4 different young adults and each of them had  very distinct and unique voices.

Emilia

Emilia was my favourite narrator simply because of her innocence and her good heart. From the very first chapter that she narrated, I knew that she was going to be the best person. My heart broke so many times over the course of the book for Emilia and I was just constantly amazed at her selflessness and her refusal to give up and her loyalty to the people that took her in.

Joana

It’s impossible not to like Joana. She was the character that rallied everyone together. She made sure she got everyone to safety before she let herself relax. She fiercely protected her makeshift family and did everything in her power to save everyone. Reading from her perspective was just really calming. You could tell that everything was going to be okay even just from listening to her thoughts.

Florian

Florian was probably my second favourite narrator. He started out as stoic and rough but really showed his love and his goodness later on especially with Emilia. Even though he had to do some pretty harsh things, he was still good deep in his heart and I liked that. My favourite part of his was when he hauled a dying woman into a lifeboat despite the fact that there was another person screaming that an extra person would capsize them. He got her into the boat and then screamed at the person to just shut up. My heart just swelled at that.

Alfred

I have read books which have been narrated by Nazi soldiers and people who are loyal to Hitler but never have I encountered a character as despicable and disgusting as Alfred. I hated Alfred from the very beginning. So Alfred’s story was mainly told through his mental letters to a girl he loved back home called Hannelore. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the fact that he is a typical male but his ‘letters’ of course made him seem like he was this great big important guy serving Hitler and that he was one of the best of the best when in fact, he was the ‘bedwetter’ to all his colleagues and was considered the lowest form of marine life as my dad likes to put it.

It wasn’t that he made himself greater then he actually was that turned me off him. What turned me off was his blatant disregard for women and children in general. I mean I know that Hitler conditioned most men in Nazi Germany to think of women as lowly and unworthy of anything but I just couldn’t handle Alfred’s way of thinking.

There was one point in the book where he was mentally talking to Hannelore about the pregnant refugees and he blamed the woman for getting pregnant. He blamed the woman! As if it’s just the woman who is involved in the conceiving of a child!

There was also loads of other instances. Like he stole a lifejacket from a woman and then forced himself into a lifeboat while disregarding the thousands of woman and children that were still on the ship.

I hated him. You could say that this way of thinking was a consequence of war but I don’t believe that. You have to be a special kind of evil to act the way Alfred did.

Overall

Overall I really enjoyed Salt To The Sea. I was disappointed that it didn’t end up making me cry but I thought that the story was very powerful and ultimately, it was simply something that everyone needs to read.

I for one am so glad that I now know about this ship and it’s demise. I’m glad that I got to find out so much more about where the shipwreck is, how divers are still looking for the Amber Room and about how divers say that the Baltic ocean is haunting to be in simply because an estimated 25,000 people died in it because of the war.

Actually, I was reading a diver’s recount of his dive down to the Gustloff (which apparently is illegal now because the Gustloff is a registered war grave) and he said that he saw a skeleton that was still wearing his uniform and his boots.

It’s so important that we keep these stories alive. That we keep telling them so everyone knows and no one forgets. Everyone deserves to know about the Wilhelm Gustloff. None of the atrocities committed during the war deserves to be forgotten.

 

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