City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert    Pages: 466      Published: 2019

The book: 1940 and nineteen-year-old Vivian is kicked out of Vassar College. Her rich, well-to-do parents send her to live with her Aunt Peg in New York, who owns a run-down theatre in Midtown Manhattan. Vivian is thrown into a heady life of showgirls, late-night clubs, parties, and men, a far cry from her previous life in the suburbs.

You might like it because:
Think Sex and the City with a serious plot line in 1940s New York. Gilbert’s exceptional writing vividly brings that time period to life and, in particular, the Manhattan theatre world.

What did other people say?
“It would be easy to dismiss City of Girls as joyous escapism…But look more closely and what you’ll see is an eloquently persuasive treatise on the judgment and punishment of women, and a heartfelt call to reclaim female sexual agency.”  – The Guardian (UK)

“Intimate and richly sensual, razzle-dazzle with a hint of danger.” – USA Today

Awards & Recognition:
New York Times Bestseller

How quickly will you get into the book?
The first two pages are intriguing and left me wanting to know more. Then the story slowed, for me, until the beginning of chapter 3 (page 21); after that I could not put the book down.

You might not like it because: The book covers a very long time period, from when Vivian is nineteen until she is in her nineties. Two thirds of the story focuses on her time living with her Aunt Peg. The style and pace of that part is different from the last third of the book, which moves slower.  This change of style and pace may irritate some readers.

What might you read next?
In an NPR interview, Gilbert said that as part of her research for City of Girls she read John O’Hara’s books. You could pick up one of these. Try A Rage to Live, which was published in 1949 but is still available today.

Or read another book set in New York during World War II, Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach.

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