Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

    Love letter to female friendships and to New York City.


    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is the story of Vivian Morris, who comes to New York City in 1940 as a 19-year-old Vassar dropout. Her parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. The Lily is peopled with down-on-their-luck artists and with the most beautiful showgirls in New York City, and Vivian — who thinks “there was never anything better than those simple, enthusiastic revues” that are “designed to make people happy” — believes she has found her people.

    Sharing a room above the theater with the most beautiful of all the showgirls, Vivian begins her glamorous New York City existence: making costumes for the shows during the day and partying with the dancers every night. But while Vivian finds the freedom and decadence of her new life exhilarating, she’s also becoming more and more selfish. 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.

    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

    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.

    It is also a nostalgic love letter to the New York City of the 1940s. “There will never be another New York like that one,” Vivian tells us. “This is a city that gets born anew in the fresh eyes of every young person who arrives here for the first time. So that city, that place — newly created for my eyes only — will never exist again. It is preserved forever in my memory like an orchid trapped in a paperweight.

    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is more than a love letter to New York—it’s a colorful portrait of what it means to be part of a theater company, or more accurately, to become a ‘theater person’… Gilbert brings the reader into every moment happening just behind the curtain.

    Bust Magazine


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