Title: 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.