City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.
In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.
I received a letter from his daughter the other day.
If you are on bookstagram, it is almost guaranteed that you have seen this book. It is absolutely everywhere and I would argue that it is the book of the summer- for good reason!
It is very rare that I say this about a book that was almost 500 pages, but a part of me wishes that it were longer. I could have lived in this world with these characters for 500 pages more. I was in no way ready to say goodbye to Vivian. There was something about her that I connected with and found so refreshing. The story begins with her as a naive teenager and we follow her as she ages and comes in to her own. I appreciate that she was honest about who she is and what she wants- she came to a point where she was no longer going to apologize for being true to herself. There is the perfect balance between character growth and accepting oneself for who they are. In many ways, she reminded me of Evelyn Hugo. Both are memorable in the fact that they are unapologetically themselves.
The side characters are just as memorable and quirky. Each one had their own personality and added more dimension to the story. It was interesting to see how Vivian idolized many of these people and to see how her life is altered because of them.
What is it about New York that makes for the perfect setting for a novel ? It is full of glitz and glamour while also being dark and seedy. It makes for the ultimate backdrop for Vivian’s story and journey to self discovery.
You could say that the book is divided in to two parts, and while the first part was more fast-paced, I personally enjoyed both parts equally. It was brilliant to see how the events of the first half affected the decisions made in the second.
Side note- if you do pick up this book, please read the acknowledgments. They are moving and brought tears to my eyes.
100% yes! If you are like me and have been avoiding this book because you did not enjoy Eat, Pray, Love, please do not let that deter you. City of Girls is fantastically written, so fast-paced, and just plain fun! This is one of those books that I wish I could read again for the first time.
36 thoughts on “Book Review-City of Girls”
It’s so funny that you posted this today! I was just looking at this book last night, and I decided against because I didn’t like Eat, Pray, Love…the exact concern you mentioned! Your review has changed my mind, and I’m going to pick this up today. 😀
That makes me so happy!! I honestly think you are going to be blown away. I never would have guessed this is the same author as Eat, Pray, Love. Can’t wait to see what she writes next!
I’m looking forward to reading it!
Almost halfway through, and I adore it! 💖
Yay!! So glad!
So I put this book on my tbr a few weeks ago because I kept seeing it everywhere and it’s available on my Libby app. I was a little skeptical but now I can’t wait to pull it out of my tbr jar
That’s awesome! I don’t think you will be disappointed!
Okay “100% yes! If you are like me and have been avoiding this book because you did not enjoy Eat, Pray, Love, please do not let that deter you.” I will read this then. Especially because the stage manager is a character. I used to stage manage back in the day and want to see how realistic this feels! Thanks matey.
x The Captain
I would be so curious to see what you thibk as someone who worked in theater!
I just requested this from the library and be #68. But when I get to it, I will make sure to link this post to me review so ye can see. Arrrr!
x The Captain
Haha not surprised it has a long holds list!
Thanks for the review! I was absolutely avoiding this because of my feelings on Gilbert’s other works despite thinking it would be right up my ally. I’ll have to add it to my TBR
I don’t think you will regret it. It’s something special for sure!
I hadn’t heard of this book, I think I might be the only one, but you made it sound so interesting! The summary reminds me of Evelyn Hugo, it sounds like a good story!
It really did remind me of Evelyn Hugo in some ways. I was so happy about that!
This sounds so good! Thanks for the recommendation, Kristin!
It is really great!!
Great review! I’m guilty of avoiding it because of E,L,P 😱
I was too! Glad I’m not alone in that!
I was so close to returning this book to the library unread but you just got me to give this book a chance!
I’m so glad! I don’t think you will regret it!
Excellent review! This has been popping up on my GR feed so much this summer, glad to see you loved it.
Thank you! I was so surprised by how much I really did love it!
I’ve noticed that I’ve been drawn to books about self acceptance this year, and this book is no exception! I’m not on bookstagram, so this is my first time hearing about it. Lovely review, Kristin 😁!
That’s awesome. In that case, I really think you would love this book! Thank you!
Sounds like a good book! NYC always makes a wonderful setting!
Great review 🙂 This really has been all over bookstagram this summer and I’m honestly curious but also a little wary about picking it up. The only book of Gilbert’s that I’ve read was Eat, Pray, Love and I didn’t enjoy it. But I’m very tempted to get this one, especially after reading your review!
I didn’t enjoy Eat, Pray, Love either but I adored this one. She is a great fiction writer!
It’s such an entertaining book! I will never get tired of books set in NYC!
I have never heard of this book and the rewiev made me want to read it.
Thank you! That makes me happy to hear!
You sold me on a l-o-n-g book. Great review! ⭐
Yay!!! I hope you love it as much as I did!
This is such a great review! I can relate to that bittersweet feeling of the book nearly ending .. you want to know what happened yet want to hold on to the characters for as long as possible. Will add this one to my reading list. Just finished reading and reviewing ‘Postscript’ by Cecelia Ahern.
Thank you! It’s a rare feeling for me but I love when it happens!