My friend T once dated a guy who was a Program Manager at the History Channel. I mean, come ooon. Super cool job and super cool guy. There was no end to the supply of rare and fascinating docos and films that would circulate our cohort at any given time. I think I mourned their break-up more than they did. One particular flick that Mr H Channel introduced me to was “Valley of the Dolls” and with that unforgettable introduction came the irrepressible Sharon Tate. In an era pre Botox, fillers and microdermabrasion, this woman was stunning. STUNNING. And natural (I think). But more intriguing than her superficial beauty is the story of her murder and her connection to Charles Manson. My knowledge of Manson and his cult is limited to the education received on a couple of E True Hollywood Stories and the occasional article in WHO magazine. But nonetheless the murder of a very pregnant Mrs Polanski (I know – married to that director too!), has been an endless source of fascination and intrigue over the years.
Which brings me to The Girls. Set in the Summer of 1967, The Girls is brimming with the free love and experimental ethos of the era. Narrated by (a now adult) Evie, the novel is as much a coming of age exploration and the decline of the nuclear family as it is an homage to the trappings of the cult of Manson. The writing is good. Very good. The tale is engaging. Incredibly so. But, as the title suggests, the focus of this piece of historical fiction was not on Mason himself but the girls and women around him. That’s fine, even refreshing. But I would have loved a little more exploration as to why this figure was so seductive and beguiling. Or perhaps that’s the crux of Emma Cline’s point. To follow blindly with no rhyme or reason is the cult leader’s true power of enchantment.