City of Girls
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.

City of Girls Details

TitleCity of Girls
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherRiverhead
ISBN-139781594634734
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Adult

City of Girls Review

  • marilyn
    January 1, 1970
    Ninety five year old Vivian is telling her life story. She says she is good at two things in life and that's sex and sewing but another thing she excels at is focusing on Vivian. In the first twenty years of her life, the fact that there were other people out there, people who didn't have servants following them around, catering to their every need, never occurred to Vivian. She didn't even know she was rich, she thought everyone was as well off as her, all their monetary and other needs taken c Ninety five year old Vivian is telling her life story. She says she is good at two things in life and that's sex and sewing but another thing she excels at is focusing on Vivian. In the first twenty years of her life, the fact that there were other people out there, people who didn't have servants following them around, catering to their every need, never occurred to Vivian. She didn't even know she was rich, she thought everyone was as well off as her, all their monetary and other needs taken care of without a thought to how it happened. Then Vivian flunks out of her first year of Vassar because going to class didn't interest her and she is shipped off to live with her Aunt Peg, in New York City. Peg owns a falling down theater and offers plays to the poor, two plays a day, everyday, and Vivian uses her sewing skills to make costumes for the plays. Vivian also spends all her spare time with the showgirls and every night partying and having sex with men. One of her few regrets in life, at ninety five years of age, is that she didn't have even more sex with men than she had. It's 1940 and the fact that there is a war going on and that the US in getting involved in the war totally flies over Vivian's head...she's busy partying and sexing and nothing would have stopped this thoughtless way of life except she becomes part of a sex scandal that brings her NYC life to a halt. Vivian runs home in shame (although her parents think she came home because she was homesick) and spends the next year moping. Aunt Peg rescues her to have her help put on plays for those working to support the war cause in NYC and Vivvie actually begins to notice what is happening around her. That is the first part of the book and it could have made a complete book. The parts I liked the most were the historical aspects of theater life in NYC and the part of living in NYC during WWII. We then enter the rest of Vivian's life, where she uses her sewing skills to run a bridal boutique, all the while spending many of her evenings having sex with men. See Vivian is ahead of her time, she is the sixties sexual revolution before it ever happened and she's going to tell us about how she and her friends have always been ahead of their times. But also, Vivian is going to use one instance in her life when she was being driven home, in shame after the scandal, where a young man insulted her concerning the scandal, to detail her entire life to a relative of his, seventy five years later. She claims she is telling her life story so that this lonely, hurt man can be known for the wonderful man he really was but I see it as a way to continue keeping the focus on Vivian...it's always Vivian...Vivian is good at sex, sewing, and focusing on Vivian. This is a long book and I kept waiting for Vivian to get to the point but she is the point. This book is about her, with part of the book focusing on the theater world and WWII, also. I could have used a lot less about Vivian but since she is narrating the story and she's the star of her world, that was not going to happen. I enjoyed much of the book and wish I could have liked Vivian better but I must say that this story is true to the personality of Vivian and maybe shouldn't have been written any other way. Thank you to Riverhead Books/Penguin Publishing Group and Edelweiss for this ARC.
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  • Hannah Greendale
    January 1, 1970
    Vivian Morris is an elderly woman recounting the days of her youth in this frolic through 1940's New York. She's a nineteen-year-old virgin when she journeys to the city to live in her Aunt Peg's crumbling theater, the Lily Playhouse. Hers is a tale of late-night carousing and rambunctious sexual exploration, followed by war, maturation, and the mundane trivialities of becoming an adult. In the preview to this Advanced Uncorrected Proof, Gilbert writes that she wants this book to "go down like a Vivian Morris is an elderly woman recounting the days of her youth in this frolic through 1940's New York. She's a nineteen-year-old virgin when she journeys to the city to live in her Aunt Peg's crumbling theater, the Lily Playhouse. Hers is a tale of late-night carousing and rambunctious sexual exploration, followed by war, maturation, and the mundane trivialities of becoming an adult. In the preview to this Advanced Uncorrected Proof, Gilbert writes that she wants this book to "go down like a champagne cocktail - light and bright, crisp and fun." And it nearly does, thanks to occasional bursts of humor, its lively cast of characters, and the glitz and glam of theater life. The narrative starts slow but really picks up once the characters band together to put on a boisterous play they hope will bring some desperately needed funds to the Lily. And the story of Vivian's awkward first sexual experience is the height of hilarity. Vivian's youthful exploits include free love, beautiful showgirls and handsome men, but the book hardly delivers on its promotional promise of being an erotic, rollicking adventure. It's more sensual than erotic, and the narrative is quite somber and melancholy. Most perplexing is the decision to tell the story through the eyes of an aged Vivian. She periodically interrupts to explain the significance of certain moments in her youth, bringing the narrative to a halt. She conveys everything through a hazy film, robbing the narrative of immediacy and putting everything at a remove. With this kind of narrator, there needs to be an arc or epiphany - not in her youth, but in her elder years - some moment that makes it worthwhile to convey the story with hindsight, but Vivian's final revalations are unsurprising. Approach City of Girls with tempered expectations. Instead of the lyricism and gravity of The Signature of All Things or the velvet glamour of graphic dalliances and erotic encounters, anticipate a peach-hued coming-of-age with hints of memoir, a nostalgic and sentimental ode to redefining family and discovering oneself. If I'd been more wise and attentive, I might have realized that America was eventually going to get pulled into this conflagration. [. . .] And I might have realized that some of the fun young men with whom I was cavorting every night in New York City were just the right age to be put on the front lines when America inevitably did enter this war. If I'd known then what I know now - namely: that so many of those beautiful young boys would soon be lost to the battlefields of Europe or to the infernos of the South Pacific - I would have had sex with even more of them. If it sounds like I'm being facetious, I'm not. I wish I'd done more of everything with those boys.*-*Note: Quote taken from an Advanced Uncorrected Proof. Many thanks to the kind people at Penguin Random House for providing a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • ✨ jamieson ✨
    January 1, 1970
    this sounds .. a lot like evelyn hugowhich means I'm either gonna hate it or love it (??)
  • Umut Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    Before I start, I'd like to mention a few things Elizabeth Gilbert wrote at the beginning of the book, which attracted me to it, and also explains the book very well. She says:"I've longed to write a novel about promiscuous girls whose lives are not destroyed by their sexual desires" , then she introduces Vivian Morris, who's our narrator and the main character of this book. And Gilbert says: "My goal was to write a book that would go down like a champagne cocktail- light and bright, crisp and f Before I start, I'd like to mention a few things Elizabeth Gilbert wrote at the beginning of the book, which attracted me to it, and also explains the book very well. She says:"I've longed to write a novel about promiscuous girls whose lives are not destroyed by their sexual desires" , then she introduces Vivian Morris, who's our narrator and the main character of this book. And Gilbert says: "My goal was to write a book that would go down like a champagne cocktail- light and bright, crisp and fun." So she did :)This is a coming of age story of Vivian, a very likeable and vivid character. She's 19 when we start following her, a college drop out coming from a wealthy family. She moves to New York to live with her eccentric aunt Peg, who owns a theatre, and then, her adventures begin. We follow Vivian until she's very old. I can easily say, Vivian is a character you'd want to follow, you'd want to listen to her stories because she's very energetic, sassy, free and fun. "I promise that I will try my best in these pages not to go on and on about how much better everything was back in my day. I always hated hearing old people yammering on like this when I was young. (Nobody cares! Nobody cares about your Golden Age, you blathering goat!) And I do want to assure you: I'm aware that many things were not better in the 1940s. Underarm deodorants, air-conditioning were woefully inadequate, for instance, so everybody stank like crazy, especially in the summer, and also we had Hitler."The book started very strong, I loved Gilbert's note, I loved Vivian right away. She was so ready to throw herself out in the world and welcome all the experiences that was thrown back at her. I think her attitude for life was a good reminder of 'life is short' and we mustn't forget to live it while we can. Gilbert gave so much life and energy to her characters that it really impressed me so much. They were all different than each other, all flawed, but amazing. Peg, uncle Billy, Edna, and many more. It was a parade of interesting people that we got to know so well. I just could picture all of them in front of my eyes, and I wished so badly I could transfer there to meet them.For me, the highlight of this book is definitely how real and how vivid Gilbert writes. It could be mistaken for a real memoir. "I was long and tall, that's all there was to it. And if it sounds like I'm about to tell you the story of an ugly duckling who goes to the city and finds out that she's pretty, after all-don't worry, that is not that story. I was always pretty, Angela. What's more, I always knew it."Another thing is the historical time Vivian was in, 1940s. It wasn't an easy period, when there was the war. Again, I felt like I was transferred to those times to New York. The amount of detail Gilbert put in her descriptions were so imaginative. The way she described the dresses, the society, the theatres, the effects of war on people, was just impressive. I loved it! I wanted Vivian to be real so badly, I wanted her to be on TV so I could watch her telling her stories, even better, a friend so I could have coffee with her. It was also fascinating to watch her to get older and more mature. But, in any part of her life, she was interesting. I highlighted so many of her comments, and actually many more characters. In my opinion, there's one thing that could be better in this book. Sometimes the energy went down a bit too long, some periods that were rather un-eventful took more space than it should. But, it didn't decrease my love for the book :) But, all in all, I thought this book was fantastically written with interesting characters. Such vivid descriptions, a lot of energy, wit and wisdom. A surprise would pop out of the pages every now and then. In some ways, it reminded me of Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but don't get me wrong here. The stories aren't even remotely similar. But, the way I wanted Vivian to be real so much reminded me how much I wanted Evelyn Hugo to be real. Because they were so well written, captivating characters. I hope this was useful :)
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  • Kristina Libby
    January 1, 1970
    Just finished this book in a marathon reading session on the beach. It was vibrant and deep and complicated and lovely. Time well spent and something any Liz Gilbert fan will enjoy. For that matter, something that those who are not her fans will enjoy as well if they are people who love New York City, love life or simply love a well-crafted tale.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    This definitely feels like a book of two halves: the first is a glorious rush of youthful hedonism, and is just so *joyous*. The characters leap off the page and the boho background of a slightly ramshackle neighbourhood theatre is rendered with loving detail from the stunning showgirls to the quiet songwriter, the English star who can't return to London during the Blitz to the Hollywood writer who creates the surprising mega-hit musical ' City of Girls'. The writing flows, Vivie is an adorable This definitely feels like a book of two halves: the first is a glorious rush of youthful hedonism, and is just so *joyous*. The characters leap off the page and the boho background of a slightly ramshackle neighbourhood theatre is rendered with loving detail from the stunning showgirls to the quiet songwriter, the English star who can't return to London during the Blitz to the Hollywood writer who creates the surprising mega-hit musical ' City of Girls'. The writing flows, Vivie is an adorable ingenue who soon loses all her inhibitions, drinking, carousing and sleeping her way around 1940 Manhattan.Then something happens that stops her life in its tracks and as Pearl Harbour happens in the background, Vivie's life takes a soberer turn, a putting away of youth. This half of the book felt a bit more 'told' to me as we're very conscious of Vivie speaking to a correspondent. It's still interesting, especially in its depiction of an independent woman who doesn't conform to gendered expectations, but doesn't have the same life and joie de vivre of the first half - age is inevitable, and we feel it in the tone of the story. To compensate, there is a lovely, unusual love story though it's quite late before it appears.Gilbert's writing flows so easily that I picked up this book to just dip in... and found myself having read a third without even noticing! With a definite feminist slant, wisdom and an easy style with words, this slides down so easily. The first half is outstanding, the second quieter - a lovely book that I enjoyed immensely.Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Lydia
    January 1, 1970
    This book was everything I could have possibly wanted and more.
  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    At 51% I’m done. I loved the voice and the writing but I’m growing very weary of hearing about Vivian’s sexual exploits. I loved the era and the setting. The audiobook narrator was incredible. But it wasn’t enough to save this book for me. I’m all for women owning their sexuality but by the halfway point I’d like to see some growth and maturity. Promiscuity is not a step forward for women, it’s a step backward.Vivian is rather a bore and this book is way too long given the subject matter. Moving At 51% I’m done. I loved the voice and the writing but I’m growing very weary of hearing about Vivian’s sexual exploits. I loved the era and the setting. The audiobook narrator was incredible. But it wasn’t enough to save this book for me. I’m all for women owning their sexuality but by the halfway point I’d like to see some growth and maturity. Promiscuity is not a step forward for women, it’s a step backward.Vivian is rather a bore and this book is way too long given the subject matter. Moving on....I received an e-galley via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Betsy
    January 1, 1970
    3 stars--It's okay, but I had some issues with it. The basic premise is that Vivian, the 89-year-old narrator, is telling her life story to someone named Angela in the form of a letter. I did love the level of historical detail included in this (mostly) WWII-era novel. Although "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" took place a bit later, I vividly pictured the characters running around a New York that looked something like it did in that TV show.I appreciated Vivian's sense of humor--you know she doesn't 3 stars--It's okay, but I had some issues with it. The basic premise is that Vivian, the 89-year-old narrator, is telling her life story to someone named Angela in the form of a letter. I did love the level of historical detail included in this (mostly) WWII-era novel. Although "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" took place a bit later, I vividly pictured the characters running around a New York that looked something like it did in that TV show.I appreciated Vivian's sense of humor--you know she doesn't take herself too seriously when she claims, "The only two things I've ever been good at in this world are sex and sewing." No, I wasn't holding my sides or belly laughing, but I did chuckle a lot.Through the bulk of the novel, Vivian didn't grow or change much, but I think that's what Gilbert intended. For the most part, we're supposed to take Vivian at face value. For this reason, the big leaps forward in time bothered me a bit. It's hard to tell how or why Vivian develops when big chunks of time are left out of her story.The other really big thing that kept me from enjoying City of Girls as much as I could have is that the text itself was prepared sloppily. I was *not* reading an ARC or galley, so the English should have been nearly perfect. In my version, there were lots of stray commas that really broke up the flow of sentences. No one's perfect, but this problem was so prevalent that it had a negative impact on the reading experience.In addition, the text was mostly written in American English, but there were UK spellings thrown in at random. Gilbert is American, and her narrator is American. I got a US edition from my US public library, so there's no logical explanation for the weird inconsistency in the text. Maybe Penguin was trying to cut corners in the editing department?City of Girls gets a down-the-middle 3 from me because there are worse ways to spend a few hours. It's an okay beach read that won't make anyone think too hard.
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  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    21/5/19I had so much darn fun reading this book, honestly. Going through Vivian life was riveting, so utterly exciting! Loved it!! A review will up on my channel soon! :D7/5/19A sincere thank you to Riverhead Books for this copy of City of Girls!! I started this book off yesterday at the lake and can't wait to finish it! The setting is wonderful and I am having such a wonderful time! :)You can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
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  • Peggy
    January 1, 1970
    I've read several other books by Elizabeth Gilbert and thoroughly enjoyed them, but not this one. At first I thought it amusing, but after awhile all the joie de vivre became boring. I also thought that the book went on too long. It could have been pared down.
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  • Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    This started out with so much promise - NYC in the 1940's, theater scene, bawdy characters. But, the reminiscence by an elderly Vivian lacked the electric excitement that would have been there if we were living the story along with 19-year old Vivian. The pacing was also odd - long drawn out parts and then the end seemed to rush through to tie up loose ends. I did enjoy the plot, which had many laugh out loud moments and didn't take itself too seriously. The colorful characters and the showbiz b This started out with so much promise - NYC in the 1940's, theater scene, bawdy characters. But, the reminiscence by an elderly Vivian lacked the electric excitement that would have been there if we were living the story along with 19-year old Vivian. The pacing was also odd - long drawn out parts and then the end seemed to rush through to tie up loose ends. I did enjoy the plot, which had many laugh out loud moments and didn't take itself too seriously. The colorful characters and the showbiz backdrop make this a fun & light read, but don't expect the beauty and ingenuity of Gilbert's previous novels.
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  • Gwyn
    January 1, 1970
    This book was a mishmash of 2 different stories thrown together. Three quarters of the book was Vivian experiencing New York in her late teens and early twenties pre and during WW2. The rest of the book jumped ahead 15 to 20 years where someone she had only met once re-enters her life. Then the tone and story of the book totally changed and doesn’t match the writing style in the first part of the book. The final chapter then jumps about 25 years to try to pull it all together. The character of V This book was a mishmash of 2 different stories thrown together. Three quarters of the book was Vivian experiencing New York in her late teens and early twenties pre and during WW2. The rest of the book jumped ahead 15 to 20 years where someone she had only met once re-enters her life. Then the tone and story of the book totally changed and doesn’t match the writing style in the first part of the book. The final chapter then jumps about 25 years to try to pull it all together. The character of Vivian was a dumb woman who didn’t seem to think for herself. For her privileged up-bringing that is touted heavily, Vivian never once questions morality of what she’s doing. I expect characters in Historical Fiction to be far more interesting. I would have preferred the story of Edna or Peg over Vivian. Oftentimes it felt like it was a bore to read the book but I was given an advanced copy and knew I needed to finish it to write a review. Parts of the book were over done and I hope the final version is edited to be more concise.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fun read, and bursting with life. But much like Eat, Pray, Love, some parts held together better than others. The early years in NYC are vivid and the characters are alive. But the later chapters become lifeless and really feel like a retelling - detached and somewhat hollow.
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  • La Petite Américaine
    January 1, 1970
    I haven't read this yet - it doesn't even come out for another 6 months. Starting it at 5 stars anyway because it looks bad ass. :)
  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    There are criticisms that could be made of this book (length, narrative disruption and weighting, heavy-handed messaging, pacing) but right now I’m enjoying feeling some big feelings, namely joy, wonder and love. Gilbert is an incredible storyteller – pithy, witty, generous, big-hearted. But she’s also someone who has lived many lives and felt the full weight of experience and that comes through in every aspect of this book. If you’re feeling open-hearted and ready to feel some big feelings then There are criticisms that could be made of this book (length, narrative disruption and weighting, heavy-handed messaging, pacing) but right now I’m enjoying feeling some big feelings, namely joy, wonder and love. Gilbert is an incredible storyteller – pithy, witty, generous, big-hearted. But she’s also someone who has lived many lives and felt the full weight of experience and that comes through in every aspect of this book. If you’re feeling open-hearted and ready to feel some big feelings then this is the book for you.
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  • Susan Milrod
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this novel! Looking forward to it being published so I can recommend to friends. Really wonderful
  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    At least 3 stories in one, Liz Gilbert has given us a sizzling new style in storytelling~Born in 1921 Vivian shares a fully-developed narrative, of her veracious life. At 19 years old she leaves Vassar to live with her eccentric Aunt Peg in the big city. Thrust into a life living in her aunt's flamboyant and crumbling theatre in NYC, along with a colorful cast of characters, Vivian experiences a wild and sexy, pre-war city.A building scandal set's the stage for the stories first climax; a life c At least 3 stories in one, Liz Gilbert has given us a sizzling new style in storytelling~Born in 1921 Vivian shares a fully-developed narrative, of her veracious life. At 19 years old she leaves Vassar to live with her eccentric Aunt Peg in the big city. Thrust into a life living in her aunt's flamboyant and crumbling theatre in NYC, along with a colorful cast of characters, Vivian experiences a wild and sexy, pre-war city.A building scandal set's the stage for the stories first climax; a life change for the protagonist will have you wondering what could possibly happen next. Vivian's story will do this at least 3 more times before it comes to a deserved conclusion. Full of sexy nostalgia, war torn changes, an unexpected love, and a brilliant life lived~ without apology. All of this delivered in a letter to her dear Angela. Galley borrowed from the publisher.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This reads like a hybrid of elements from Valley of the Dolls, Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Queen of Babble and I loved it. We begin with Vivian moving to NYC fresh off her failing out of Vassar in 1940. She is sent to live with her aunt, in her theatre The Lily. The bulk of the book is about this formative time in Vivian's life, and the characters that fill out The Lily are flawed and wonderful.The story spans to the present as we move toward finding out who Angela is and why Vivian is wr This reads like a hybrid of elements from Valley of the Dolls, Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Queen of Babble and I loved it. We begin with Vivian moving to NYC fresh off her failing out of Vassar in 1940. She is sent to live with her aunt, in her theatre The Lily. The bulk of the book is about this formative time in Vivian's life, and the characters that fill out The Lily are flawed and wonderful.The story spans to the present as we move toward finding out who Angela is and why Vivian is writing to her. Any of the quibbles I had with the story were brushed aside by how much I enjoyed the flow of Vivian's life story. Highly recommend.Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for providing me with an e-arc for review.
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  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    When I learned that Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel was our next Book of the Month, this wasn’t what I expected. In the preface to the ARC (kindly provided by Bloomsbury), Gilbert writes, “For many years now, I’ve longed to write a novel about promiscuous girls whose lives are not destroyed by their sexual desires.”‘City of Girls’ is a glimpse into life in 1940s-1970s America, as told by Vivian Morris in a letter to the much younger Angela (whose significance we learn of towards the end of the nov When I learned that Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel was our next Book of the Month, this wasn’t what I expected. In the preface to the ARC (kindly provided by Bloomsbury), Gilbert writes, “For many years now, I’ve longed to write a novel about promiscuous girls whose lives are not destroyed by their sexual desires.”‘City of Girls’ is a glimpse into life in 1940s-1970s America, as told by Vivian Morris in a letter to the much younger Angela (whose significance we learn of towards the end of the novel). In 1940, Vivian is 19, has been kicked out of Vassar and is shipped off to New York to live with her aunt Peg who owns and runs a theatre. Her only real interests are drinking and sewing, both of which help her to find a place in Peg’s madhouse theatre as costumer and endear her to a brassy showgirl.Vivian is naive, sheltered and bored and this is her first taste of real freedom — a dangerous combination. Throughout the early parts of the novel, she grows more and more reckless until a single foolish incident puts her in real danger of being completely exposed and shamed for her indecent behaviour.With a rich cast of characters, a 1940s Hollywood movie feel and a refusal to shame women for their desires, this novel has come at the right time. Gilbert gives us a wonderfully human heroine in Vivian and her sometimes-catastrophic mistakes, which allow her to grow from naive newcomer to the city to a true New Yorker.By choosing to write it as a letter to the mysterious Angela, Gilbert is able to explain many of the nuances about life in the past as asides, such as: “It’s almost as though he wanted to look like a female! (Forgive my naïveté, Angela, but I hadn’t been around a lot of homosexuals at that point in my life. Not made ones, anyhow. Now lesbians, on the other hand — those I’d seen. I did spend a year at Vassar, after all. Even I wasn’t that oblivious.)” [This quote is from Chapter 3, and I promise it’s no spoiler!]There is much to love about this book, and I hope that others who are ambivalent about Gilbert’s non-fiction offerings will give it a go too.
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  • DeAnn
    January 1, 1970
    3 stars to this fluffy theater taleThis might make a perfect beach read if you are a fan of New York theater and you are looking for some light reading (but it's too long). Our narrator is Vivian, and as a young, privileged woman she is kicked out of Vassar and her parents ship her off to Aunt Peg in New York. Aunt Peg owns and runs the Lily Playhouse and puts on short plays/musicals for the local neighborhood. Vivian gets completely caught up in the theater life with showgirls, frequent sex, an 3 stars to this fluffy theater taleThis might make a perfect beach read if you are a fan of New York theater and you are looking for some light reading (but it's too long). Our narrator is Vivian, and as a young, privileged woman she is kicked out of Vassar and her parents ship her off to Aunt Peg in New York. Aunt Peg owns and runs the Lily Playhouse and puts on short plays/musicals for the local neighborhood. Vivian gets completely caught up in the theater life with showgirls, frequent sex, and the nightlife of New York.WWII is raging in Europe and a famous London actress ends up in New York and brings some class to the Lily Playhouse. Things are going swimmingly well for the group until Vivian gets carried away and the press is right there. Vivian is shipped home in shame and her life takes a dramatic turn.It felt like a tale of two books and Vivian matures quite a bit and eventually returns to New York as the U.S. joins WWII. This book should be called “The Life of Vivian” because it all centers around her. There were some interesting historical aspects and I enjoyed a bit of a sneak peek into what happens in the theater world. I did find Vivian an interesting character, but now I’m looking for a deeper book to read.Thank you to Edelweiss, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Riverhead Books for a copy of the book to read in exchange for a review.
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  • Melissa Rochelle
    January 1, 1970
    Sparkling, funny, authentic. Thanks to the publisher for the advance reading copy.
  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    SummaryIn 1940, Vivian moves to New York after being kicked out of Vasser College. She moves into the Lily Playhouse with her Aunt Peg and group of eclectic cast members. Vivian is immediately swept into the life of showgirls, theatre, and men. But a scandal derails her fun and sends her life into a spiral but also starts her on a path toward freedom and love.OverviewThis is a historical fiction fiction novel that takes place mostly during the WWII era. You see the events through a young, afflue SummaryIn 1940, Vivian moves to New York after being kicked out of Vasser College. She moves into the Lily Playhouse with her Aunt Peg and group of eclectic cast members. Vivian is immediately swept into the life of showgirls, theatre, and men. But a scandal derails her fun and sends her life into a spiral but also starts her on a path toward freedom and love.OverviewThis is a historical fiction fiction novel that takes place mostly during the WWII era. You see the events through a young, affluent girl living in New York City. This entire story is told in the format of a letter. As an old woman, Vivian receives a letter from Angela asking to hear the details about how Vivian knows her father. The story slowly unwinds revealing who Angela and her father are and the connection between them. The best way I can describe this is a cross between Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and How I Met Your MotherContent Warnings: Sex, Alcoholism/Excessive Drinking, Cheating, PTSD, DeathWhat I Liked1. Vivian's character had such a captivating "voice". I was immediately pulled into this story. She is such a sassy, intriguing main character and I couldn't help but turn the page. Vivian is so flawed and so unlikeable at times (or the teenage version of her is). But I loved the little quips that were thrown in by her as a grown woman.2. This books is hardcore feminist. If excessive sex talk makes you uncomfortable, this is not the book for you. I loved the depiction of healthy female sexuality - especially in a time period where this was even more scandalous. None of these characters shied away from who they were. This entire book was a collection of strong, independent woman. And I was here. for. it.3. I thought the letter format style was really unique and brought a lot of the story. Since Vivian's character was so flawed and made so many poor choices, the added input from her future self really helped me from becoming unattached to her character. Plus it allowed the narrator to challenge some of the prejudices that were displayed.What I Didn't Like1. This book was very long. I personally felt that the amount of detail and background wasn't totally necessary. And there were times that it started to drag because it didn't feel like we were getting any closer to the reveal.2. My main grip is I was pretty underwhelmed by the reveal. I appreciated the representation of an unconventional relationship. But I personally wanted more after the extensive, 300+ page build up. Overall this book is unlike anything else I've read. I loved the strong feminist themes and 100% enjoyed my time reading. If you like character driven, literary fiction, I recommend checking this one out!
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  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Riverhead Books / Penguin Publishing Group for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.It's 1940 and nineteen year old Vivian Morris is a Vassar College dropout. In the summer of that year, Vivian's parents sent her packing to New York City to stay with her Aunt Peg. Peg owned a dilapidated theater company called the Lily Playhouse which churned out revues sporting former burlesque dancers transformed into showgirls, with mostly forgettable storylines. The ticket prices were Thank you to Riverhead Books / Penguin Publishing Group for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.It's 1940 and nineteen year old Vivian Morris is a Vassar College dropout. In the summer of that year, Vivian's parents sent her packing to New York City to stay with her Aunt Peg. Peg owned a dilapidated theater company called the Lily Playhouse which churned out revues sporting former burlesque dancers transformed into showgirls, with mostly forgettable storylines. The ticket prices were cheap to adapt to the low income residents in the immediate neighborhood. The living quarters were located above the theater, its apartments often filled with down on their luck actors, actresses and dancers. Vivian was suddenly thrust into a sparkling world of dazzling, artistic people and life-changing experiences. Some themes explored are loss of virginity, sexual hunger and prowess, and same-sex relationships at a time when it was "under the radar." Vivian was given an exquisite and spacious apartment in the building, which was actually meant for Aunt Peg's flighty actor/writer husband Billy Buell. Although they never officially divorced, Billy was living the Hollywood/playboy life clear across the country. But, that was okay. Aunt Peg had her stalwart mate Olive that oversaw everything at the theater like an army sergeant. This book lured me in from the first page with its beautiful narration by Vivian. Vivian is telling her life story to an unknown person named Angela, whom we don't get to identify until almost the end of the book. Vivian's story is told from 1940 to the present day, in epic fashion. An especially poignant and relevant time period discussed in the book is America's involvement in World War II. I was often deeply moved throughout this tome, and had a fixed vision in my head of the beautiful Vivian. The writing style was easy, flowing, and the pages turned effortlessly. I highly recommend this wonderful book for a rich, quality read.
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  • Diana
    January 1, 1970
    I first started loving this book when the main character loses her virginity, but the most fun thing about it is rushing back to rejoin her showgirl friends at the diner to laugh about it.This was a lot of fun in the beginning, then satisfyingly thoughtful in the end, a book that considers the wild, heedless mistakes we make when we're young and how we grow into our wisdom, and how both stages are good and necessary. It's great when you're young to be open to the world, to rush in, to engage wit I first started loving this book when the main character loses her virginity, but the most fun thing about it is rushing back to rejoin her showgirl friends at the diner to laugh about it.This was a lot of fun in the beginning, then satisfyingly thoughtful in the end, a book that considers the wild, heedless mistakes we make when we're young and how we grow into our wisdom, and how both stages are good and necessary. It's great when you're young to be open to the world, to rush in, to engage with life without thinking too much about the consequences, and it's also great to be older, to know who you are, to live with your own faults and the faults of others with equanimity.The main character, Vivian, is 19 at the books opening, a well-to-do, vain and shallow girl who is really into clothes and very good at sewing and creating wonderful outfits. She's flunked out of Vassar, so to get rid of her, her parents ship her to New York City, where her Aunt Peg owns a run-down theater. It's 1940, and the New York City of 1940 is vividly described in this book, and I enjoyed that. Vivian falls in with the showgirls who work at the theater, especially one named Celia, and instantly starts running around the city, drinking and flirting and sleeping with men, and it's all kind of a blast-- until it's not. I loved the character of Celia, gorgeous, carnal, with a serious old-timey New York accent in a low, husky register. I very much enjoyed conversations between Aunt Peg, Uncle Billy, and Edna that sounded like dialogue out of a 1930s screwball comedy. And I loved how the narrator, looking back on her life from old age, talks about her own callowness. At one point, she talks about going to see Billie Holiday, but then she says something like, "and what do I remember about the time I saw Billie Holiday? I remember that some man I'd been flirting with left with another girl." (This made me think about how it would be fun to time-travel in my own life, to go back and pay attention to all the things I missed when I was thinking about how my ass looked in those jeans, or whether some dumb guy I didn't even like that much liked me.)Vivian suffers a fall, and it's a doozy. She tries to return to her parents’ house and become a good girl, and luckily she fails and winds up back in New York. She builds a life, and she finds her vocation and her people, like you do if you’re lucky. The end isn’t as fun as the beginning, but it was still satisfying. I liked Vivian’s journey, and I liked the unconventional closeness she found with Frank towards the end of the book. I found the conversation she had with him about his “cowardice” interesting. It explored some ideas I haven’t found elsewhere. Maybe you’re not perfect in this way. Maybe you’re perfect in other ways. I liked the way Gilbert talked about clothes, too.I know a lot of people who have issues w/ Elizabeth Gilbert, and I confess, although I loved the “Eat” part of Eat, Pray, Love, the other two parts kind of lost me. But this book and The Signature of All Things are excellent. Both offer rich characters, explore interesting times, and display the author’s love of research about various intriguing subjects (moss! Tahiti! Clothes! Prewar theater in NYC!). And I like the satisfying journeys that her characters take. Gilbert writes great historical fiction.
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  • kglibrarian
    January 1, 1970
    I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert--even her Instagram posts are poetic and insightful to me. Reading the description of City of Girls had me worried that I wouldn't connect as much with this one as with her others. I expected it to be frivolous and fun, which is fine for some readers but not enough to wow me. I couldn't have been more wrong!! This incredible novel not only blew me away with its perfectly timed storytelling, but the characters are developed with such depth and fine-tuned indiv I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert--even her Instagram posts are poetic and insightful to me. Reading the description of City of Girls had me worried that I wouldn't connect as much with this one as with her others. I expected it to be frivolous and fun, which is fine for some readers but not enough to wow me. I couldn't have been more wrong!! This incredible novel not only blew me away with its perfectly timed storytelling, but the characters are developed with such depth and fine-tuned individuality that I will have a hard time leaving them behind.The novel is told as a letter from an older woman, Vivian, to a woman a few decades younger, with whom she is loosely connected through someone who was close to them both. If that sounds confusing, it's because we are not given the full story of this connection until the end of the narrative, adding a layer of intrigue to the entire structure of the book. Vivian tells the story of her life, beginning in the 1940s, when she is a 19-year-old Vassar dropout who is sent by her parents to live with her eccentric aunt Peg in New York City. Peg owns the Lily Theater, a rundown, charming place in midtown, that puts on mediocre plays to entertain a local middle class audience. Vivian falls into the theater lifestyle, going out on the town with showgirls, who become her friends, and being introduced to handsome young (and old) men who become her lovers. She sails along in this glamorous life until one unexpected turn of events sends her abruptly rushing back to her childhood home.Though the entire first section of the book that highlights Vivian's exploits as a young New York City party girl would have been enough to satisfy me, the book continues to detail the next decades of her life. Gilbert weaves in major historical events, including WWII, the 60s free love era, and aspects of the growing feminist movement. Not only is the action framed by such fascinating sights and plots, but the characters also provide moving, profound knowledge of the world through simple, compelling lines of advice and observation.There are really no adequate words to convey how much I loved this stunning novel. It has so many dimensions to it, and such nuanced characters and storylines that it is like a coming-of-age novel times 10. Gilbert has once again showcased her brilliance and I am sad that I will never again read it for the first time.
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  • Emily Carlyn
    January 1, 1970
    This book is right up my alley - historical fiction with a touch of feminism. We’ve all been 19, so this book is relatable! This is the story of Vivian’s life written to a woman named Angela to explain how she knew Angela’s father (think the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo). Vivian lives a life that wasn’t considered “proper” for the time period. She’s free spirited! Did she make a mistake? Yes. But she grew, she learned, and over time became the person she was meant to be. It’s a lifelong story b This book is right up my alley - historical fiction with a touch of feminism. We’ve all been 19, so this book is relatable! This is the story of Vivian’s life written to a woman named Angela to explain how she knew Angela’s father (think the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo). Vivian lives a life that wasn’t considered “proper” for the time period. She’s free spirited! Did she make a mistake? Yes. But she grew, she learned, and over time became the person she was meant to be. It’s a lifelong story because Vivian starts her story at age 19, and in the end she is almost 90. The characters, the details, the stories inside the story - all were so fascinating!
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  • Sara Snyder
    January 1, 1970
    "After a certain age, we are all walking around this world in bodies made of secrets and shame and sorrow and old, unhealed injuries. Our hearts grow sore and misshapen around all this pain--yet somehow, still, we carry on."Vivian Morris, City of Girls.What a beautiful and vibrant story about Vivian Morris, a well-bred, 19-year-old girl from a conservative family in Clinton, NY. After being kicked out of school, she is shipped off to live with her Aunt at her run-down NYC theatre, the Lily, in 1 "After a certain age, we are all walking around this world in bodies made of secrets and shame and sorrow and old, unhealed injuries. Our hearts grow sore and misshapen around all this pain--yet somehow, still, we carry on."Vivian Morris, City of Girls.What a beautiful and vibrant story about Vivian Morris, a well-bred, 19-year-old girl from a conservative family in Clinton, NY. After being kicked out of school, she is shipped off to live with her Aunt at her run-down NYC theatre, the Lily, in 1940. This story takes you on a journey of Vivian's life experiences during her first summer in the city. Surrounding herself with showgirls, and other deeply flawed characters who also stay at the Lily, Vivian begins living life carelessly with no regrets. That is until she makes a terrible mistake -- one that cannot be fixed, which has put her reputation and relationships with those she cares about in jeopardy. This is a story of redemption and forgiveness. It brings attention to the fact that we are all flawed, but still deserving of love.For the first 300 pages, I couldn't put the book down. It became increasingly less interesting towards the end. That being said, I am glad I finished. I give it a solid 4 stars! Thanks to the publisher for the ARC of this book.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    It’s all about HER! Vivian Morris is the complete focus of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, City of Girls. It is presented as a memoir told by Vivian to a woman named Angela, whose father was an important man in Vivian’s life (at first I somehow thought Angela might be Vivian’s daughter – but no, despite decades filled with dozens (hundreds?) of sexual connections, Vivian has never given birth. The story follows Vivian’s life from the time she leaves her childhood home in a small town in New York ( It’s all about HER! Vivian Morris is the complete focus of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, City of Girls. It is presented as a memoir told by Vivian to a woman named Angela, whose father was an important man in Vivian’s life (at first I somehow thought Angela might be Vivian’s daughter – but no, despite decades filled with dozens (hundreds?) of sexual connections, Vivian has never given birth. The story follows Vivian’s life from the time she leaves her childhood home in a small town in New York (after flunking out of Vassar) and is shipped off to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a somewhat rundown theater in New York. For the next few years, Vivian hangs out with showgirls and actors and utilizes one of her two skills: designing and sewing costumes for the actors and dancers in the shows (more about her OTHER skill later).Vivian was born in 1920 into a classic upper-middle-class WASP family, and as she becomes a young woman, she enthusiastically lives her life on her own terms. Her family isn’t given to discussing important topics, but then neither is society in general: after a huge scandal involving a threesome with her, a showgirl, and a famous actor (complete with photos and Walter Winchell), Vivian has to leave New York and return to her parents’ home. “…White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. You need to understand that we have only one central rule of engagement, and here it is: This matter must never be spoken of again. We WASPs can apply that rile to anything—from a moment of awkwardness at the dinner table to a relative’s suicide. Asking no further questions is the song of my people.”Her other skill (in addition to sewing) is having sex with lots of men, and she pursues this relentlessly as she spends most of her evenings out on the town. The descriptions of life in New York just before World War II are fascinating, and Ms. Gilbert’s research into the history of the theater district and daily life in the City during the War is evident.Vivian is oblivious to her white privilege, both unaware and mostly uncaring about nearly everyone but herself and a very few people whose lives intersect with hers. She says as she thinks back, She sees some of the dark side of life, particularly when women in the theater, including her closest friend, are victims of violence“…it’s appalling to realize that this kind of violence seemed so commonplace back then…” and it “…was long before there was any sort of public conversation about such dark subjects—and thus we had no private conversations about them, either.”She has to return to her parents’ home after she is pretty much run out of town in shame (unknown to her parents, who thought she got homesick!), Vivian drifts along, settling into a boring job and a boring relationship. She nearly marries, as she “…slid toward marriage, like a car sliding off the road on a scree of loose gravel.”After a few celibate years, Vivian returns to New York and her aunt’s world, and learns many life lessons as she accepts herself, continuing her easy way with many men. She realizes it “…was more important for me to feel free than safe.” Despite an incident when she was leaving New York when she was nearly overwhelmed by shame as she heard the way she was seen by outsiders, she comes to know that “After a certain age, we are all walking around this world in bodies made of secrets and shame and sorrow and old, unhealed injuries.” And she claims that she has “…learned this truth: when women are gathered together with no men around, they don’t have to be anything in particular: they can just be.”So there is a lot to love about Vivian, and about her world. She really is completely self-absorbed, and as she tells her life story, readers will either love her or not (and either would be just fine with her!). The second phase of her life, as she becomes self-sufficient and creates her own family of choice, is completely different from her early wild years, and yet it is totally a straight line from one to the other. In some ways, I loved Vivian, although I never really got how she could remain so oblivious to the world around her, other than how it directly affected HER. From beginning to end, it is all about her. So while I didn’t really LIKE her, the story is totally true to who she is, and Ms. Gilbert is a great storyteller who is skilled at bringing her characters to life. Thanks to Penguin Group/Riverhead Books and NetGalley for providing a copy of City of Girls in exchange for my honest review. Four and a half stars. Probably would have been a five, but I just didn’t like her! Thereby indicating the author’s skill at creating a character so well, so I just upgraded it to five stars!
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  • Neelam Babul
    January 1, 1970
    An enigmatic book from Elizabeth Gilbert. The story is told from the perspective of a Ninety five-year-old woman, Vivian who narrates her life story to Angela. She claims to be good at two things in life, sex, and sewing. Vivian was born into a privileged life with parents who gave her the best life possible and servants who fulfilled every need of hers. It never occurred to her that there was life different from hers and that life was drastically different for other people. The turning point in An enigmatic book from Elizabeth Gilbert. The story is told from the perspective of a Ninety five-year-old woman, Vivian who narrates her life story to Angela. She claims to be good at two things in life, sex, and sewing. Vivian was born into a privileged life with parents who gave her the best life possible and servants who fulfilled every need of hers. It never occurred to her that there was life different from hers and that life was drastically different for other people. The turning point in Vivian's life comes when she fails all her exams at her first year in Vassar. She fails not because of a significant reason but because the classes did not interest her. As a result, she is shipped off to live with her Aunt Peg, in New York City. Peg owns a theater on the grasp of crumbling down and offers plays as a form of entertainment. Vivian who is a master at Sewing heaving learned the skill from her late grandmother puts her talent to use by designing costumes for the actors in the plays. Vivian starts spending all her spare time with the showgirls from the play, partying all night and having sex with men. She is so busy partying that the fact that there is a war blooming never moves her or make her rethink her choices. It is only when she gets involved in a sex scandal that her life comes to a halt and she realizes the error of her ways. Vivian runs home in shame to lick her wounds and starts working for her father. Aunt Peg rescues her by inviting her to New York again in order to support the war cause which impacts her life significantly. In the second part of the book after the war is over, Vivian uses her sewing skills to run a bridal boutique. Vivian is a strong woman proud of her sexuality and is a woman distinct from other women during that era. Vivian recalls an incident which has stuck to her mind and keeps on replaying over and over making her feel the pang of scrutiny and helplessness. It was on her way back to her parents after the scandal that a friend of her brother utters humiliating words at her face and somehow that experience never leaves her mind. I loved the second part of the book better than the first one because we get to experience the change in Vivian and how she grew from a woman of no importance to one who was in charge of her life and had a prospering career. A breathtaking story and I absolutely adored the female characters who were in charge of their lives and were the main focus of the story with the male characters playing a secondary role. A feminist perspective that will resonate with women of all ages.
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