Book Review: City of Girls

City of Girls (2019)

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: City of Girls
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Riverhead
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Pages: 470
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: December 16, 2019

Goodreads Description: 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.

My Review: At the beginning of this decade, I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, so it felt fitting that I would end this decade with a new Elizabeth Gilbert book. I loved Eat, Pray, Love, a book about loss, uncertainty, adventure, finding oneself and love. It was unique, heartfelt and contained a lot of depth and feeling. Unfortunately, I felt those qualities missing from City of Girls. It did contain strong female characters, but it really felt just like reading Sex in the City if that took place in the 1940s. I enjoyed trying to figure out who the main character was telling her story to, but I am not sure solving that mystery was worth reading that book in its entirety. It was too long and not very exciting.

Recommendation: If you enjoy reading historical fiction that takes place in New York City with strong female characters, I would recommend Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen over City of Girls. 

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 

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