Impressions // Marlena by Julie Buntin and The Girls by Emma Cline
Reading books in really quick succession can sometimes be a pretty disorientating experience. Characters get muddled, plots seem to bleed in to one another in a weirdly seamless way, and ultimately I’m left wondering, just for a moment, why the characters of a book set in the 1960s have inexplicably acquired flip phones and Hotmail accounts. This was almost precisely the case with two books I recently came across, Emma Cline’s The Girls, and Julie Buntin’s Marlena. This isn’t to detract, as all, from each novel’s originality – I found them both supremely engaging, and, to be totally honest, incredibly moving. But what struck me was that despite their vastly disparate settings and the vastly different means with which they deal with their central themes, the themes themselves are very similar; the absent and unreliable father, the single mother trying to realign her own sense of self after a messy divorce, the solitary girl seeking some form of approval from, and sense of belonging in, the inhospitable social world in which she moves. In all, both texts capture, incredibly beautifully, the sheer intensity of young female friendship, as well as awkwardness and the painfully self-conscious nature of female adolescence, arrested as it is by the intimidating gaze the men around them.