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Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert (narrated by Blair Brown)

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: June 4, 2019
15 hrs 8 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction

"Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are."

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:

My very first full length audiobook and lemme tell y'all, Blair Brown is EXCELLENT at narrating Vivian's story.  I went into this side eyed, cheeks sucked in and wary about listening to a book for 15+ hours but listened to this one in a few sections, the majority of it yesterday, while doing gem art and it was glorious. GLORIOUS, I tell you!

I cannot believe just how invested I became in this story.  Vivian is a hell of a woman and while I can't relate to living with show girls, I can relate to moving to New York wide eyed, letting the city devour me while I devoured it.  With Vivian we get this enthralling story set in NYC during the 1940s and on.  From learning about how she lost her virginity (and boy was that a hoot!), to finding her framily, learning the hard lessons, the war, casual sex, an unconventional love... I mean, honestly, it's all here.  I even forgot at one point why Vivian was telling us her story to begin with... but I sure am glad that she did.

Gilbert shows just how human all these characters are with all their faults and fabulousness.  She doesn't hold back in giving us the pure joy of Vivian getting caught up in this very interesting world... but she also gives us the gritty, dangerous side and just how *lucky* Vivian could get at times.  Vivian wasn't your typical woman growing up in this generation.  Trying to transverse being an honorable woman to living her life the way she wanted to... well, when we gets towards the end where my heart nearly burst... well, you're just gonna have to get this story yourself.  It's worth it. 


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