BOOK CLUB: City of Girls

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Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 9781526610423
RRP: $32.99
Publication Date: 4 June 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

I picked up a memoir called ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ at a bookshop I was browsing before a long weekend away with my best friend. It was 2006, and I’d ended my marriage not long before. I read the back of the book, and knew I had to buy this book immediately. I read it non-stop on that weekend away, and got chastised by my friend for reading too much. “This book is really interesting,” I said to her. I gave copies of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ to any of my friends who were going through a divorce. Since then, I’ve become a big fan of Gilbert’s work – I later devoured her book regarding marriage ‘Committed’, I listened to her podcasts, and I’ve heard her speak. I even met her at an event, and told her about my own life journey – I came out after my divorce. Apparently everyone who meets her tells her about their life journey, I later learnt!

In 2013, I excitedly bought Gilbert’s first novel post-Eat, Pray, Love. She had written novels before her memoir, but I hadn’t read them. ‘Signature of All Things’ was a hit for many, but it didn’t really hit the mark for me – so much so that I didn’t even finish it, something I very rarely do. It’s still sitting there, waiting for me. Because of that, I was a little anxious when ‘City of Girls’ was announced. Despite my anxiety, it seemed like it would interest me, and I was excited to give Gilbert’s fiction another try. While I’m not generally a fan of historical fiction, this novel transported me to 1940s New York City, and beyond. In the book, Vivian, now 95, tells us of her life, meeting showgirls who open her eyes to a world she’d never imagined. Her life is exciting, and she’s so different from the other women of her day. Sex, late nights, business, fashion, friendship, adventures and perhaps even some love… I won’t give too much away, but the book intrigued me. More so, Vivian intrigued me – what a strong, independent woman for her day.

I got to know Vivian so well through this book and delighted in her antics. Even the much more minor characters are so richly portrayed. I was completely absorbed by the book, and the richness of the characters. It’s not surprising, then, that I highly recommend the book. I’m determined to go back to ‘Signature of All Things’ now, because the richness that Gilbert wrote with in ‘City of Girls’ was so incredible, and Gilbert is such an incredible story-teller, that I’m sure if I give ‘Signature of All Things’ another try, I might see it differently today.

A word of caution – reviews are mixed. Some say the book is shallow, or there’s too much sex, or too much of this or not enough of that. Others say the book is exciting, captivating and impossible to put down. I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, I’m telling all my female friends and family to read this book.

‘City of Girls’ is now available where all good books are sold.

This guest review was submitted by Raechel, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Raechel.

City of Girls is available now through Bloomsbury and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Bloomsbury 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading City of Girls so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below

9 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: City of Girls

  1. “I am good at sex and sewing”! That passage made me laugh out loud! This book is witty and full of interesting times told by Vivian as she narrates her life to Angela.

    Vivian didn’t have the closest relationship with her family. In her late teens, without much aspirations she is sent to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. The Lilly Playhouse becomes her home and workplace. This suits Vivian fine as her taste for fashion and talent in sewing blossoms.

    Despite the war going on in the 40s Vivian doesn’t hold back on living life to the fullest (something she isn’t accustom to). However, it’s no surprise her lifestyle choices lead to some significant consequences. Becoming of age Vivian must make decisions along the way as she finds her way in a rapidly changing world.

    I was pleased to be selected to read this book, being that I am a huge fan of Eat Pray Love. More than happy to recommend. Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Bloomsbury Publishing.

  2. Wow! What a story. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert tells the tale of Vivian, written from her own perspective narrated to the unknown character Angela. The tale begins in New York in the early forties where Vivian is a wealthy, playful and naïve twenty-year-old. The novel tells her story of coming to meet Angela’s father and in doing so finding her passions and love, often in unplanned and unexpected places. Vivian is a party girl and at times the scenes will make the reader want to blush with her openness, however also tells the sad story of a providing yet unloving family. Vivian instead travels to New York, finding love and relationships stronger than the convention types females would be expected to pursue in those times. The novel has strong messages of love, loyalty and forgiveness. When we eventually learn Angela’s part in the story Vivian’s character has grown from the naïve, small town, poor little rich girl to a strong, independent and successful business woman and friend.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace, and Bloomsbury Publishing for the opportunity to read this novel. A historical fiction is not my usual choice though Vivian certainly kept the story interesting.

  3. I was so excited when I copy of “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her novel “Eat, Pray, Love” is one of my favourites
    I also enjoyed this book. It is similar to “Eat, Pray, Love” as it is about a woman’s journey in discovering herself. That is where the similarities end
    Set in New York in the 1940s, this is the tale of Vivian as narrated to Angela. Vivian has had a rather sheltered and privileged upbringing. This changes when she is sent to live in New York with her Aunt Peg.
    A true coming of age story that will keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning
    I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was like diving into a different world. Thanks so much to Beauty and Lace and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read and review this book. I will be sure to seek out more of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wotks

  4. The story begins when Vivian is 19 years old and her exasperated parents send her to live in New York with her Aunt Peg, who owns a theatre called The Lily Playhouse, after Vivian is kicked out of Vassar.
    Taking only a suitcase and her sewing machine, Vivian doesn’t know what to expect. She is soon thrown into the world of theatre, making friends with showgirls, designing costumes, getting drunk and meeting men.
    The story then moves on to Vivian’s adulthood, and basically her entire life story (it is narrated by Vivian as a 95 year-old). I enjoyed reading about Vivian’s friendships and the journey her life takes, she is a confident woman, somewhat cocky but not in an over the top way. City Of Girls started off really great; the first 70 or so pages had me completely hooked, but then I lost a bit of interest, and by the end, I felt like it went on a little too long for my liking.
    At nearly 500 pages, there is a lot of story to be told, and whilst the story is quite good, there are too many scenes that could’ve benefited from being cut back (in particular, the sex scenes). I am not a prude, but we are talking pages of descriptions about Vivian’s sexual encounters.
    I would say that this is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself as I can see how it would have mixed reviews. I enjoyed it, but not enough to remember it for long..
    Thank you to Bloomsbury and Beauty And Lace for the opportunity to Read and review City Of Girls

  5. City of Girls is the coming of age (and wisdom!) story of Vivien, set in the backdrop of 1940’s New York. Vivien drops out of college and with no aspirations gets sent from her WASP parents to her aunt Peg in NYC where she socialises with showgirls and actors in a razzle dazzle story. Here she finds herself and becomes to understand the trials and tribulations of adulthood. The descriptions of the “City of Girls” theatre show, the impact of the war and the friendships were outstanding and I’ll be unable to forget them for a long time. I loved all that this story was and would recommend for anyone wanting a rollicking read, historical fiction or tales of friendship.
    Thanks to B&L and Bloomsbury Publishing for the opportunity to read and review the novel.

  6. City of Girls is a great read, transporting us back in history and letting us see through the eyes of young Vivian, a promiscuous girl who learns some lessons the hard way. An enjoyable read with a good serving of wisdom thrown in, a recommended book for sure.

  7. This was a difficult one to review as I want to avoid giving out any spoilers while trying to explain how my rating changed throughout this read!

    The writing for the majority of this book was fantastic, I loved the wit & humour in City of Girls and Vivian, the main character & narrator had such a sassy, engaging and dynamic voice. Vivian has written a letter to a mysterious female named Angela and you are left wondering who Angela is and most significantly who was Angela’s father. The story that unfolds is rich with detail. The intriguing characters that you meet along the way really jump out of the page and the action and excitement of theatre life and New York City is so vivid you can easily picture yourself right there with the music playing and the smoke billowing around you. This by far is my favourite section of the book, it was such a fascinating and exciting era and I enjoyed the descriptive writing. Elizabeth Gilbert really brought the varied entertaining and flawed characters to life right down to the clothes they were wearing and you just wanted to know more about them – about their past and their future.

    At times however, it did feel a little long as you anticipated something big to happen. Looking back at the entire book there are parts that seemed disjointed from the rest or that there was some imbalance and that more detail was needed (this sounds strange I know as I just said it seemed too slow at times, but when you read City of Girls, I think you’ll see what I mean!). I had no issues with how unlikeable some of these characters were or how they behaved (who’s perfect anyway?), it was interesting to see how Vivian set out to explore and find herself and try and stay true to what she believed in and who she really was over the course of her life.

    I hovered between 3 to 4 stars but ultimately settled on a rating of 3.5/5⭐. With some slight changes the City of Girls would’ve been a solid 4 star read for me.

    Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and Beauty and Lace for providing a copy for review.

  8. A different look at New York City during the 1940’s from the perspective of a teenager raised in an upper-class family in a small town. I found the quirky characters so amusing and had a smile on my face for 80% of ‘The City of Girls’. As in reality, each character has their flaws, but as you get to know them you can see the good in them and they will grow on you.

  9. New York city in the 40’s. A coming of age story that follows Vivian as she finds her way, learning lessons along the way. I loves the setting and scenery….it was dazzling…. some parts where a little slow but it is worth pushing on.

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