Minda’s preg review of City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert! It’s about time I got around to this.
What I drank prior: Went over to Sam’s for Christmas Eve and had some yummy non-alc warm cider and a splurge glass of red wine.
From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.
Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.
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.
My Spoiler-free Overview: In a letter to a mystery woman, an old woman named Vivian reflects on her life and embraces the many successes and challenges she met along the way, starting in the 1940s in New York City.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: Honestly this was one of my top recommended reads of the year! For one reason or another, her story really resonated with me—from the sex-positivity to overcoming mistakes to her views on friendship. Idk I was just really into this book. Also, the rich descriptions of the clothing in each time period were wonderful.
Characters: Vivi, the letter writer, is a confident older woman who looks back on her life—both the good and the bad—with no regrets or apologies for the way she lived. She cultivates the relationships that matter to her and let’s go of the ones that don’t. Early on in the story, the focus is on Aunt Peg who takes her in and her theater troupe—a vibrant collection of characters that help shape who V becomes. Later in the story, her best friend and business partner Margery and man friend Frank become focal points in V’s life.
Plot: You know me, I love some historical fiction and I thought it was all there in terms of plot. The book is 100% character-driven though, so if you’re not team-Vivi you probably won’t like the book.
World Building: The author definitely did her homework in terms of the decades—really felt the vibes.
Writing Style: I read this on audio and I highly recommend. The narration really felt like an old woman telling her story and it was perfect.
Write Spoilers Here
I like that Frank turned out to be the guy in the car after Vivi’s most embarrassing event of her life and that, in the end, they live devoted but separate lives. Just perfect.
Also the part about Franks PTSD from being blown into the water at Pearl Harbor was so sad. And being court marshaled by an incompetent general. And that he intentionally distanced himself from his daughter because of his shame about his PTSD? OOF.
What to pair it with: French 75. The author has said it herself—she wanted a book that goes down like a champagne cocktail, and boy does it.
Rating: 5/5 shots