Suggestions for summer reading
“The Girls” (Random House) is the debut novel by Emma Cline that has attracted quite a bit of critical attention.
It’s the story of a fourteen year old girl, in the summer of 1969, who noticing the carefree abandon of a group of girls in a park, is drawn into their arc, in which they’re part of a Manson-like cult which the young girl finds to be intriguing, exotic and thrilling.
Focusing more on the girls in the cult, rather than their charismatic leader, and told from the vantage point of a narrator who is now drifting through her own midlife as a live-in aid, Cline uses series of epigrammatic sentence fragments that are eerily evocative, such as her description of when she first sees the girls: “Sleek and thoughtless as sharks breaching the water.”
Use of this technique gives Cline’s prose an immediacy to the threat of looming evil that makes for a compelling read.
“A Country Road A Tree” (Knopf) is the latest novel by the English writer, Jo Baker.
The title is the opening stage directions for Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot.” The novel is drawn from here fascination of encountering Beckett’s work when in college, noting that it was like nothing else she’d ever read.
When she learns from her teacher that Beckett had been stuck in occupied France during World War II and forced to into hiding, the seeds for this novel were sown.
It’s Paris in 1939 and the Nazi’s are moving in down the Champs Elysees and Beckett and his lover, Suzanne, are on the run, soon to join the Resistance.
Their experiences during the war, and its deprivations, probably formed the core of Beckett’s later, Nobel-Prize-winning works, such as Baker’s recounting the instance of the couple hiding up the titular tree to escape the Germans.
In relating the fact-based travails of this young couple on the run, it is easy to see how the experiences Baker recounts might have shaped Beckett’s work and it’s a daring concept for an author to take on, “novelize” if you will, let alone pull off as successfully as Baker does here.
Kirk Robertson covers the arts and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.