City of Girls
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.
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert | Publisher: Riverhead
Rating: 4.25 / 5
“Never has it felt more important for me to tell stories of joy and abandon, passion and recklessness. Life is short and difficult, people. We must take our pleasures where we can find them. Let us not become so cautious that we forget to live.”
This book has gotten a lot of hype, and it’s easy to see why. It’s well written, uniquely narrated, and a great story. There’s no denying the master-level work of Elizabeth Gilbert!
Our main character is Vivian, who’s nearly 90 years old. She’s writing a letter, telling the recipient the story of “what she was” to this woman’s father. Except she starts the story way back, just after she failed out of a girls’ college in upstate New York. Her wealthy family sends her off to live with her aunt, who owns a small theatre in New York City.
Vivian is good at two things: sewing, which she does to become a sort of costume director at the theatre, and partying (plenty of alcohol and sex included), which she does every night with her showgirl best friend. Then a major star comes to the theatre, they write a hit play for her, and just when everything is going great, Vivian makes a huge mistake that brings her world crumbling down around her. The rest of the story takes us through the remainder of Vivian’s life as she finds her way to a life that feels like her, although it’s notably unconventional.
This was a long book, at nearly 500 pages. But it reads smoothly; it doesn’t drag. And it’s a gorgeous exploration of youth, desire, shame, growing up, companionship, friendship, parenthood, love, and plenty more in between. The main characters will tug at your heart. Your cheeks will burn and your head will throb and the curiosity of who Vivian is talking to will keep you turning pages until the end.
I give this 4 / 5 because it didn’t grip me quite as much as a typical 5-star book does. But I still think it was great, and definitely worth your time. All 500 pages of it.