Womens Fiction

City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert

1 May 2020
City of Girls Book Cover City of Girls
Elizabeth Gilbert
Womens Fiction
Bloomsbury Publishing
June 4, 2019

The blazingly brilliant new novel from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the international bestseller Eat Pray Love: a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of a lost New YorkIt is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg's charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses. Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to be free, to get up to no good, to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company's most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in the wake of this true, true star. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.' At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is,' she confides. And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her - women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.

I love this book! Vivian Morris, 20, is banished to New York in disappointment by her parents after being sent down from Vasser after failing to attend a single class. She’s to live with her Aunt Peg who owns the Lily Theatre Company which performs something like revues with showgirls and dancers. Oh boy, does Vivvie have her eyes opened as she’s introduced to a hedonistic world by the showgirls, especially Celia. The story is told from 1940 onwards by Vivian to Angela who wants to understand what her father Frank Grecco meant to Vivian. To set their story into context Vivian tells her life story.

I really enjoyed this book which takes you on a journey of fun, danger, war and post war with all the ups and downs of a bohemian life. The book is very well written, at times it’s hilarious and at others for example when Vivian and Celia are looking for fun and trouble, there is also a dark side.

The book is about Vivian’s attitude to sex and certainly, in the early days, she is promiscuous and is certainly ahead of her time and would have fitted right in with the 60’s. In fact, she probably invents free love of that era. I love the character of Vivian as she’s honest, knows what she wants and what pleasure she seeks but all the characters are vividly portrayed. The dialogue is great, I love that a lot of the words used are appropriate to the period, in fact, I’m going to start using flim flam!!

The book is set in New York and there are some excellent descriptions of the city throughout the book. The Lily Theatre is a delight and comes alive and I love that various waifs and strays find their way to Aunt Pegs door. Some of the plays they perform are to a formula owing to lack of money and Vivian makes the outfits. She puts herself down when she says she only does sewing and sex. She is way more than that. She shows how thoughtful, kind, self-aware and true a friend she is in a myriad of ways, especially to Frank Grecco and her friendship with him, is a thing of beauty. This is a wonderful book of self-discovery and truths.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for a copy of the book.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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