Hi everyone! I’m so behind on writing my reviews. Honestly. So behind. So I figured I’d make some mini reviews! Not only because that will make it easier for me to catch up, but also because at times I don’t have a ton to say about each book I’ve read. Today, I’m writing a review on two books that have recently let me down: His Bloody Project and The Girls. So let’s get to it!
The Girls by Emma Cline
Genre: Fiction (Historical), Adult
Rating: 2.5/5 stars – disappointed and detached
Synopsis: Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.
Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.
And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.
Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?
I had heard such amazing things about this book. As I’m trying to expand my genre-horizon, I figured I’d pick up this adult fiction novel. From what I could gather, this was about a teenage girl that got caught up in a cult which ended up killing some people. I heard this was a fictional version of the Manson murders. Sounds exciting, right? Wrong.
I can’t remember exactly how old Evie is at the time, but I believe she’s 14. Correct me if I’m wrong. The story is told in two timelines: one when she’s 14, and one when she is a middle aged woman.
Very little of this story is actually about her involvement with the cult. When it is, she mostly talks about Suzanne (the older girl who got her involved with the cult). Throughout most of this book Evie is either a) lonely and angry at the world, b) a horrible person to others or c) thinking about sex.
I understand she’s not supposed to be likeable. But I hated how she treated every person, aside from Suzanne. She was always rude. She didn’t always say the rude things she was thinking, but she was always thinking them. I don’t understand how anyone can be so hateful to her supposed friends, and family.
And the amount of sex in this book is insane. To be clear: I’m not against sex in books, whether it’s adult or YA. But hear me out. Evie is 14 years old. Yet in every single moment, she is thinking about sex. Has her friend had sex? I want sex with her brother. Has he had sex with his girlfriend? Are they doing it right now? She is sexy. ON AND ON IT GOES. I understand that a teenager does think of sex. But please tell me there is something else going on in their lives!
Overall, this book just disappointed me. There was far too little of the actual cult in there, I don’t even know why the adult-Evie perspective was there because it wasn’t relevant to the story at all, and I was so uncomfortable with the sexual portrayal of a 14 year old girl.
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars – didn’t do anything for me
Synopsis: A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? Will he hang for his crime?
Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs, where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s multilayered narrative will keep the reader guessing to the very end.
Another one I had such high expectations of. Look, this was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (I think). That gives me certain expectations. And I thought the concept was really interesting too!
It’s set in a little village in rural Scotland, where a brutal murder takes place. 17-year-old Roderick is arrested and tried for the crime. The story isn’t really told as a story, but rather through the different documents related to his case. You have a few witness accounts, a diary/journal Roderick made of his life leading up to that moment, a psychologist’s views, his lawyer’s views, and a record of the trial. You sort of have to make up your own mind as to whether he’s guilty or not?
That all sounded really fun to me. Instead, it just left me bored.
You get introduced to the crime by the witness accounts, which were really short and rather interesting. Then Roderick gets to tell you about his entire life. I felt mostly sorry for him, but then I also intensely disliked him. He was smart, but didn’t apply himself to anything. His actions were so incredibly weird and inexplicable at times, and reading about them through his eyes didn’t help you understand him either. From reading his account, I decided he was guilty. Although I also felt like the intended victim deserved what he got.
I think the point of this book is to make you think about crimes from multiple points of view. Yes, murder is horrible. But are there mitigating circumstances? To what degree can you be held accountable for your actions under certain circumstances, and how can you tell whether someone is still truly sane? I did quite like that aspect. I wouldn’t know how to solve the issue of his sentence nowadays. Yes, I do believe he was guilty. Yet I also believe he was abused so badly, he cannot be tried as completely sane. I appreciate that this book made me think. Yet I wasn’t excited or intrigued by the overall story whatsoever.
The last aspect of this book, that I found jarring yet realistic was how the accounts differed. Some people saw Roderick as a kind and quiet young guy. Others as a mean and stupid kid. There are subtle differences between Roderick’s story and the autopsy reports too, which make you question everything.
I’ll conclude by saying this: I think the concept of this book is wonderfully intriguing. Yet I never felt attached to any of the characters, nor did I feel drawn into their story. I trudged through, so I could finish the book. But I wasn’t excited to pick it up.