City of Girls

City of Girls

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Overview: 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 eighty-nine 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.

Faith Bowers (09/21/19): This is a wonderful story of a young woman learning about life in NYC in 1941. Resettled from a small town in upstate NY she fell in love with NYC and all the action she was a part. Ms Gilbert has been known to be wordy as I have read a few of her non fiction books and all her fiction, This is not a wordy book but well edited and concise.The main character grows up before while reading and even as late as her mid 50s does she continue to grow and develop. MS. Gilbertís development of all the characters is excellent and you do not want the book to end. This was one of my favorites this year.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (09/20/19): I was a little reluctant to begin reading this book because I really disliked Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray Love. (I think I was one of the few who did not love that book!)  At the beginning of this novel, I was not really impressed. A young affluent girl is sent to NY by her parents to live with her aunt who owns the small, run-down Lily playhouse. Escaping from a small, conservative town, Vivian goes crazy at first, thriving on her freedom and all the excitement of New York City. I didn't like the character very much.

However, as the story progressed, I was pulled into Vivian's life and into all her interesting and complex relationships, with both men and women. Many of her relationships are with show people and they definitely are colorful characters. I was led to believe that Vivian was incapable of true love, preferring superficial one-night stands.

As my reading continued, though, I saw a different side of Vivian as she grew older. She made mistakes, some really serious, but she did eventually find true love. I really liked Vivian in the end and actually admired her as a human being. I thought this was a very good read.
Rating: ****

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