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City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
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City of Girls (original 2019; edition 2020)

by Elizabeth Gilbert (Author)

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1,464769,543 (3.98)31
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 eighty-nine 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.… (more)
Member:Kyla_Ke
Title:City of Girls
Authors:Elizabeth Gilbert (Author)
Info:Penguin (2020), 496 pages
Collections:Your library
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City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)

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English (70)  German (3)  Dutch (1)  Hungarian (1)  French (1)  All languages (76)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
Three and a half stars, really. ( )
  doryfish | Aug 20, 2021 |
Upping it to 3.5.

The beginning of the book started with Vivian writing to Angela telling her story to her in the present time. I didn't pick this up until I read someone else's review, but Vivian was 95 in the present time.

Vivian's life at 19 in the 1940s, started after dropping out of Vassar, when she started living with her aunt Peg who owned a small, dilapidated theater in NYC, where her parents sent her to go What a life Vivi lived with Peg, who was a strong woman and her assistant Olive. I loved all the characters in this book which included the showgirls, singers, etc. mostly all who lived in the theater. Vivian became the seamstress for the costumes. What a life for a 19 year old in the 1940s.

I loved how she became a grown up and opened her own bridal shop making the dresses with a girl who she bought fabrics from when she was sewing for the theater.

As time went by, I became engrossed in her life even more with her debauchery and the scandal she got into trouble with her Uncle Billy (who was married to Peg but never lived together unless he was in NY) and her best friend who lived with her above the theater when pictures were sold to Walter Winchell after a night out on the town. After that, Vivian went back to live with her parents which was not a good thing. She finally went back to NY to live with her aunt once again, helping the war effort at the Navy dock putting on shows. One more note about Uncle Billy, he wrote the play which became a smash hit and the title was.....City of Girls.

What brought this book together was how she met a cop who was on the ship where her brother was killed. He became her best friend and confidante. I don't want to spoil how they met originally but that was my aha moment as to why she was writing to Angela after hearing from her. ( )
  sweetbabyjane58 | Aug 8, 2021 |
I was really enjoying this book. I loved the characters and the portrayal of theatre life in the 1940s. But I think the book just got too long. I started to wonder what Nathan and Marjorie really added to the story. Then, I started wondering all kinds of things, like if Vivian's dad disliked his sister Peg so much, why did he send Vivian to live with her? And, more fatally in terms of my enjoyment, I began to question the very premise of the narrative: would Angela really want to read all of this? So, I think a bit of editing to focus the narrative would have really helped...it would have concluded the story before I became impatient with some of the details. ( )
  LynnB | Jul 10, 2021 |
Imagine if you will a famous, if aging, actress who, with her young, handsome husband agrees to star in a play called City of Girls, written especially for her by a famed playwright and put on in a theater that desperately needs a hit to stay in business. Now imagine that being a mere side plot to a sprawling look at one woman's life from the 1940s to 2010. Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls is about the New York City theater world and freedom and judgement and love and embracing and accepting all the experiences of life, good and bad.

It's the 1940s and Vivian Morris, the daughter of a wealthy family in upstate New York, gets kicked out of Vassar college. Having no idea what to do with this ungrateful child who has no interest in either school or marriage, her parents ship her off to her unconventional Aunt Peg in New York City. Peg owns and operates a down at the heels, struggling theater called the Lily Playhouse. The shows put on at the Lily are mediocre and formulaic. Vivian, accustomed to wealth, notices all of this but she thrills to the glamorous and sexy NYC theater world anyway. She is a gifted seamstress and her Aunt Peg quickly employs her as a costumer for the theater, giving her an easy way to become friends with the showgirls. She parties hard with them, embracing the alcohol and the sex, and generally behaving as if the world isn't at war until a scandal sends her home with her tail between her legs for a time. But the Vivian she uncovered on her first foray into the City has changed her, taught her to embrace all of her wildness and reject the expected.

The novel is told as one long letter to the daughter of a man she once knew who has contacted her asking for the truth of Vivian's relationship with her father. As conceits go, it is a fine one but in this instance, it is far too long between the address and the end of the letter for it to work comfortably. That Vivian is almost 100 and is looking back at the most formative bits of her life, when she was just discovering who she was and that actions have consequences, makes this an epic of a story. The first part of the novel is full of gaiety and bad (sometimes in a good way) decisions and is loads of fun. Vivian and her friends bounce from party to party, bed to bed, man to man in a flamboyant and glittering world. The second half of the novel, while still full of sex and the embrace of sexuality, felt like a very different novel in tone. Gilbert's writing is evocative and her descriptions of New York through the decades are wonderful. Her characters are eccentric and fabulous and the reader never doubts that Vivian has lived quite a life. City of Girls is overly long for sure, especially if it truly had been a letter of explanation, but it is a mostly interesting look at an independent woman forging her own wild and unapologetic life, discovering the power of forgiveness, and learning about love in all its forms. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 23, 2021 |
Beautifully written. Great dialogue and period detail. But I just didn't care about the characters. Blair Brown is an awesome narrator. ( )
  RGilbraith | May 23, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
You will do foolish things,
but do them with enthusiasm.

       ---COLETTE
Dedication
For Margaret Cordi---
my eyes, my ears, my beloved friend
First words
I received a letter from his daughter the other day.
Quotations
The secret to falling in love so fast, of course, is not to know the person at all.
This is what flirtation is in its purest form—a whole conversation held without words. Flirtation is a series of silent questions that one person asks another person with their eyes. And the answer to those questions is always the same word:
Maybe.
Asking no further questions is the song of my people.
The dirty little whores had been disposed of; the man was allowed to remain.
Of course, I didn't recognize the hypocrisy back then.
But Lord, I recognize it now.
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 eighty-nine 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.

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