THE GIRLS, BY EMMA CLINE
The book alternates between the present day and 1969, when Evie Boyd was 14 years old. She lives in Petaluma, California, and her parents are divorcing. Her father is living with a woman from his office. Her mother is dating men, all of whom Evie dislikes. She feels her mother is desperate to find someone to date. Evie has been best friends with Connie, and they spend a lot of time at each other’s house. The author does a great job describing how young teenagers act and how they need each other. The girls spend a great deal of time planning makeup, trying new beauty techniques, talking about boys and girls at their school, etc. Evie has a crush on Connie’s older brother and secretly devastated when he elopes with his girlfriend. The author captures the closeness girls feel towards each other and the change in the friendship when alliances shift. Evie notices a group of people at a park, and focuses on the dark haired woman who seems the prettiest. The second time she sees them, she goes with them to the ranch. They are living in a dilapidated house and have barely enough to eat, and wear old, discarded clothes. They all worship the 30 something leader, Russell, who is a failed musician. When the book begins, we know that Evie was involved with the cult, and that people were murdered. We don’t know until the end what happened. But the emphasis of the book is not so much on the murder and the cult. It’s more about how subserviant girls and women are to men, and how they feel they need approval from each other and men to fulfill themselves, longing for acceptance, trying to fulfill oneself by other’s approval. The writer did a good job capturing the era of the late 60’s in California, and the attraction of cults.
THE LILAC GIRLS BY MARTHA HALL KELLY
This well written novel follows three women through the course of World War II and beyond. Caroline, a wealthy New Yorker, volunteers at the French consulate in New York, assisting refugees and raising funds. Kasia, a young woman living in Poland during the Nazi invasion, works for the resistance until she is captured and sent with her mother to Ravensbruck, the women’s concentration camp. There, she encounters Herta, a female German doctor hired to help execute inmates and perform experiments. Kasia is operated on, becoming one of the “Rabbits,” inmates deformed from their surgeries. After the war, the three women connect when Caroline travels to France to assist in locating missing people, and learns about the Rabbits, including Kasia. When the novel begins, we see Kasia as a young teenager who wants to do something to help the war. Caroline is into society life, and then changes. Herta is a doctor who takes a job. This is an amazing book that takes real characters (Caroline Ferridey, Herta Oberheuser) and the Polish girls who were operated on in experiments. The author based her story on diaries, letters, museums, etc.)