City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert Review

Title: City of Girls

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I know of Elizabeth Gilbert the way most people do: post Eat, Pray, Love fame. I’ve read her self-help book, Big Magic, but before now, I haven’t read any of her prose offerings. Set in New York in 1940, City of Girls tells the story of Vivian Morris, sent to live with her Aunt Peg to live at The Lily Playhouse after leaving Vassar in disgrace. Once in the city, Vivian makes strange friends: a showgirl named Celia, her aunt’s boss, the serious and unflappable Olive, Peg’s impetuous, flighty ex-husband, Billy, and the most wonderful of all, an acclaimed actress that takes Vivian under her wing. Becoming the costume design for a brand-new play, Vivian, now at ninety-five years of age, recounts her life story to Angela, the daughter of a dear male friend. I have to say that this book is my favorite in Gilbert’s extensive body of work. Vivacious, funny, frank and strange, City of Girls is one of my favorite books of 2019, though it wasn’t perfect.

               It took a little while at first to get into this book; I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the book got rolling, I was captivated. The pacing moved at a fast clip, and I loved bearing witness to Vivian’s coming of age. The cast of characters was dynamic and engaging, though I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the beginning; there were so many people spanning the novel that it was a little difficult to keep track of them all. New York City felt like a character in and of itself, and it seemed both welcoming and forbidding, all at once. The book follows Vivian through young adulthood, and catalogs her youthful mistakes, from getting kicked out of Vassar and finding refuge with her strange, drunk aunt to the bigger ones, ones that can’t be so easily excused by being young. I also adored the format, that Vivian was speaking straight to the reader. One of my favorite things about City of Girls was the love of theater, even its less glitzy aspects, and the way that Vivian led the reader through over forty years of American history. Gilbert’s latest work is honest, enchanting, electrifying, and I will never forget Vivian Morris, or her city. The bottom line: Gorgeous, funny, and tender, I loved City of Girls! Easily one of my favorite books of Elizabeth Gilbert’s! Next on deck: Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer!

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