I’ve never read anything from Elizabeth Gilbert before I read City of Girls (Riverhead Books). The most I knew about her was that she once wrote a book called Eat, Pray, Love which was turned into a movie with Julia Roberts. No offense to Elizabeth or Julia, but there was one ad from the promotion of that film that showed Julia laughing and saying, “I’m having a relationship with my pizza,” and I thought that was such a horrible line. Never saw the movie because of it. It was too much. Now, I am older and realize better that a woman can have affection for a beautiful pile of dough, cheese and red sauce. So, I gave Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel a try and I was not disappointed.
The last time I flew through a book as fast as I did with City of Girls was when I was 13 and reading Twilight like it would cure me of the plague.
The novel begins with Vivian Morris at age 19. After failing out of Vassar College, she is shipped off to live with her unique aunt in an apartment above the theater she owns in the heart of New York City. But this is the 1940s. The booze is pouring, the sex is rampant and so is the juicy gossip. Soon, Vivian finds herself as the costume designer for her aunt’s theater, sharing a bed with a beautiful showgirl and drinking every night with men of disreputable character. This novel is the kind of fun that can only be captured by an excellent author. I felt like I was there in the clubs and following Vivian around as she explored her surroundings, learned more about herself and those around her and generally lived her life to it’s fullest until scandal hits.
She and a showgirl friend go a bit too far while galavanting around New York City and Vivian is suddenly shipped back home and her life is seemingly ruined. Disappointed, depressed and feeling rejected by the city she fell in love with, Vivian attempts to become the nice rich girl she was supposed to be. She even gets engaged and pulls back on her partying. Yet, while back on track to be the woman her parents expected her to be (without the Vassar degree), she recognizes her discontent and jumps at the chance to return to the city when her aunt offers her the chance. Again, her aunt saves her from her misfortunes and this time, Vivian makes New York stick.
There is so much more to this novel, but without giving too much away, know that it will be an excellent read. This is not a book you will ever regret reading. You’ll never stop loving Vivian (or respecting any of the other main characters flaws and all) and you’ll love yourself more for reading it. It’s historical fiction about the 1940s to the near present in New York City, yes, but it is also a novel that every person, especially women, will relate to.
Never again will I misjudge Elizabeth Gilbert.
City of Girls will be available for purchase June 4.
ABOUT ELIZABETH GILBERT:
Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love, as well as several other internationally bestselling books. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a best book of 2013 by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The New Yorker.