The young writer reportedly received $2 million for the book, the story of a young California teen who joins a cult group loosely based on the Manson family.
The newest rave of the Manhattan literary world, Cline enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and received the Paris Review's George Plimpton Award.
"The Girls" was the latest novel that showed the millennial generation's fascination for the '60s, as if their own times are not exciting enough. That was before the election of Donald Trump gave the kids a taste of how it was back in the Tricky Dick days of yesteryear.
After months of waiting, I was happy to see "The Girls" appear on the new fiction shelf at the friendly Sandy Springs branch of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library.
Alas, "The Girls" was the latest in my long string of disappointing books. I didn't find the young first person narrator, the normal California girl seduced by the allure of evil, that interesting. Nor did I find the cult that scary. The portrait of the musician based on the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson, a Manson pal, was OK, as was the character of the narrator's poor bewildered Mom.
Cline possesses talent, but her language ranged from too controlled to too extravagant. Some of her metaphors skittered off-target, but then her work didn't take enough risks.
As I read, I kept thinking that Cline, a Columbia MFA grad, is a good example of how writing programs are ruining American literature. Her sentences appeared contrived, as if they had gone through the workshop wringer.
As an aging white man, I realize I've not the best judge of Cline's work. As I tried to generate enthusiasm for Cline's narrative, I couldn't determine if "The Girls" was envisioned as "chick lit." My impression from all of the reviews was that Cline had higher ambitions for the novel as a multifaceted work appealing to a discerning general reader, whoever that may be.
By the way, Cline's title was the latest that left me amused/wondering about the widespread use of the word "girls."
I guess "Little Women" was already taken.