BOOK REVIEW: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

42135029Title: City of Girls

Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: October 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: 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: I had some reservations in reading this book because I really hated Eat, Prey, Love — but I thought that maybe Gilbert’s fiction writing would be better than her nonfiction. At first, I had a hard time getting into the story, because I really disliked the main character, Vivian. Vivian was basically a self involved narcissist who thought the world revolved around her — and if she said she was pretty once, she did it 100 times. Vivian was a naive little rich girl — who, if you could believe it, didn’t really seem to know that there was a war on — even though this book takes place during WWII. It actually got a little annoying, how self centered this character was. To be honest, I was kind of feeling a little nostalgic (in a bad way) about Gilbert’s memoir.

At the beginning of the book, Vivian receives a letter from the daughter of an old friend, Angela, who asks Vivian what Vivian had mean to Angela’s dad. Vivian, instead writes a letter back to Angela, explaining what her dad meant to Vivian. The premise seems a little far fetched — I mean, how long was this freaking letter?? Anyway, since the letter was supposed to be about what Angela’s dad meant to Vivian, it was annoying that he wasn’t introduced until after 85% of the story had already been told. I mean, really?

And haven’t we all gotten past the “shock” of thinking of women as “sexual beings”? Sometimes I felt that Gilbert only set the book in the 1940’s so that a woman having a lot of unmarried sex was somehow “shocking”. I felt this way because I never really got the flavor of 1940 in her book, and even though WWII was the biggest thing happening at the time, it played such a minor role in the book that it was as if it didn’t even exist.

Despite my thoughts above, lots of reviews that I have read were actually pretty positive (i.e., Kristin Kraves, Carla Loves to Read, and Theresa Smith Writes. In deciding whether to read this book, you should take both perspectives into account.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

19501Title: Eat, Pray, Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Travel

Read Start Date: September 9, 2017

Read Finish Date: September 17, 2017

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A celebrated writer’s irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.

Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want—a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world—all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way—unexpectedly.

An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.

My Review: Despite the good sounding synopsis above, this book was simply terrible. People rave about this book like it’s the best thing since sliced bread….well not this girl. This book was soooo painful to get through. How did this book receive such good reviews? How is this a movie? This book is a slap in the face to women everywhere. Is this book what people think of women?? I surely hope not.

Basically, this book is about Gilbert’s staged (and pre-paid!) introspective journey to Italy, India and Indonesia. This essentially was just one big marketing ploy. Her editor was like, Hey, Elizabeth, you know what would be a great idea for a book, and would make you a lot of money and increase your “brand”? Why don’t we give you an advance, and pay you to travel around the world, and then you can write about your experiences?

Gilbert’s introspective journey ended up just sounding trite and super whiney. Gilbert, a wealthy writer decides to take a year “off” to travel to Italy (because she likes how the language sounded — really, I’m not kidding — that’s what she said), India ( to go to an ashram) and Indonesia (because a medicine man told her that she will (WTF? Self-fulfilling prophecy much?)) Anyway, even though this book was supposed to be inspiring or something, instead this whole book is about her whining about how hard her divorce was (even though she refuses to say why her divorce was so hard) and that at 34 she must go find herself. I mean, she got a paid year of traveling — boo hoo! Your life is so hard Gilbert. A lot of women have hard lives, but you don’t see us crying about it while enjoying Italy, India, and Indonesia. Try feeling grateful for once in your pampered life.

Throughout the book, Gilbert honestly sounds like a selfish spoiled brat who has major personal issues that she clearly did not solve during the book, even though she’d like to pretend she did. Ugh.

I did not like this book and never saw the movie.