From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things , a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don't have to be a good girl to be a good person.
"A spellbinding novel about love, freedom, and finding your own happiness." - PopSugar
"Intimate and richly sensual, razzle-dazzle with a hint of danger." - USA Today
"Pairs well with a cocktail...or two." - TheSkimm
"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 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.
"Girls Do Want to Have Fun and EqualityAfter Vivian Morris, far more interested in clothes than scholarship, flunks out of Vassar in 1940, her indifferent, well-to-do, conservative parents ship her off to Aunt Peg in Manhattan, who owns and runs a ragtag theater in Midtown. Pretty, naive, and ardently open to suggestion, Vivian finds herself in a chaotic, cash-poor, improvisational, hard-drinking household overseen by stubbornly pragmatic Olive, upon whom Peg relies in ways Vivian cannot imagine. Celia, a ravishing showgirl who loves nothing more than a wild night on the town, promptly initiates Vivian into her life of revelry and casual sex. Their friendship, escapades, and quandaries make for an effervescent pre-WWII variation on Sex in the City (with a nod toward Auntie Mame).Gilbert's previous novel, The Signature of Things (2013), portrayed a nineteenth-century woman scientist who refused to be stymied by the sexism of her time. Here Gilbert writes against the traditional literary grain in which women are harshly punished for enjoying sexual freedom, though she adeptly camouflages her serious intent, which also embraces matters of race, class, and gay rights in a whirl of satin, lace, champagne bubbles, and smoke. And what keenly delicious fun Gilbert has bringing to life the struggling Lily Playhouse and its modest productions aimed at entertaining working-class audiences with larky song-and-dance numbers and leggy lovelies. Vivian's sewing skills grant her full entry into this enthusiastic if makeshift enterprise, especially when the chic and gifted British actor Edna Parker Watson and her handsome young husband arrive. Their London home has been bombed to matchsticks, and they're in desperate need of sanctuary and work. Peg takes them in and makes them the stars of the theater's next production, City of Girls, a play Gilbert revels in creating, from song lyrics and costumes to opening-night reviews. Its improbable success changes everything for everyone involved, and not necessarily for the better.After barely surviving a scorching tabloid scandal among the intriguing real-life characters Gilbert portrays is the infamous gossip columnist Walter Winchell followed by wartime demands, Vivian comes into her own as a talented fashion entrepreneur. We learn about her many adventures in retrospect as Vivian, an octogenarian in 2010, vividly recounts her life of choice and independence with sly wit, piquant regrets, and hard-won wisdom. Vivian's confident candor about women's sexuality, including her own preference for sex free of emotional entanglements, is tonic and affirming; the surprising turn she takes to embrace love is deeply moving.Reading City of Girls is pure bliss, thanks to its spirited characters, crackling dialogue, rollicking yet affecting story lines, genuinely erotic scenes, and sexual intelligence, suspense, and incisive truths. Gilbert's beguiling blend of comedy and gravitas brings to mind other smart, funny, nimble, and vital novels about early- or mid-twentieth-century women swimming against the tide. Most take place in New York, and some also depict the theater or other creative endeavors as crucibles for social struggles: Fay Weldon's Worst Fears (1996); Bandbox by Thomas Mallon (2004); Marge Piercy's Sex Wars (2005); The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014); Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan (2015); Careers for Women by Joanna Scott (2017); Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (2017); Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2017); The Magnificent Esme Wells by Adrienne Sharp (2018); Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt (2019); and Park Avenue Summer by Renée Rosen (2019).--Donna Seaman Copyright 2019 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Gilbert (The Signature of All Things) begins her beguiling tale of an innocent young woman discovering the excitements and pleasures of 1940 New York City with a light touch, as her heroine, Vivian Morris, romps through the city. Gradually the story deepens into a psychologically keen narrative about Vivian's search for independence as she indulges her free spirit and sexuality. Freshly expelled from Vassar for not attending any classes, 19-year-old Vivian is sent by her parents to stay with her aunt Peggy Buell in Manhattan. Peg runs a scruffy theater that offers gaudy musical comedies to its unsophisticated patrons. As WWII rages in Europe, Vivian is oblivious to anything but the wonder behind the stage, as she becomes acquainted with the players in a new musical called City of Girls, including the louche leading man with whom she falls in love with passionate abandon. Vivian flits through the nightclubs El Morocco, the Diamond Horseshoe, and the Latin Quarter, where she hears Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Louis Prima. Drinking heavily and scooting into the arms of numerous men, one night at the Stork Club she meets Walter Winchell, the notorious gossip columnist, who plays a pivotal role in the tabloid scandal in which Vivian becomes embroiled. Vivian's voice-irreverent, witty, robust with slang-gradually darkens with guilt when she receives a devastating comeuppance. Eventually, she arrives at an understanding of the harsh truths of existence as the country plunges into WWII. Vivian-originally reckless and selfish, eventually thoughtful and humane-is the perfect protagonist for this novel, a page-turner with heart complete with a potent message of fulfillment and happiness. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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