City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
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.