Adult book reviews, Book Reviews

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert


My Rating ~ Five stars


RELEASE DATE:  4 June 2019

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Format: Paperback

Pages: 470



It is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg’s charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses.

Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company’s most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in her wake. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

‘At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is,’ she confides. And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her – women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.





Thank you so much to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with a copy of City of Girls, in exchange for an honest review.


Vivian is 95 years old, and she has a story to tell.  A story of her youth, with its mistakes and triumphs.  Of friends and family and a life she never imagined.

When Vivian is shipped off to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City, after dropping out of school, she has no idea the type of life she’s stepping in to.  Peg owns the Lily Playhouse, a dingy theatre that scrapes by putting on shows for the local community.  Vivian finds a way to help out, with her costume sewing skills, and befriends racy showgirl, Celia.  Her new life takes her on a wild ride of drinking, partying and more men than she can count.  As Vivian’s story takes us through her time with her new ‘family’ at the Lily Playhouse, during war time, and beyond, we share in her joy, danger, love and loss.

Vivian is a vibrant, funny and wise storyteller who had me captivated and hanging on her every word.  I don’t usually go in for historical fiction at all, so the fact that I adored every page of this book is a testament to how well it was written and what a brilliant story it was.  Spanning decades from the 1940’s to present day, City of Girls had me feeling like a spectator at both an epic and deeply personal tale.  I loved the way Vivian owned her mistakes in later life, and narrated the good, bad and the “just was” to the unknown (until the end of the book) listener, Angela. I also fell in love with all the other characters in her story – the eccentric Peg, the no-nonsense Olive, the sexy Anthony, untrustworthy but loveable Billy and the sultry Celia.  They all played such instrumental parts in what become an unforgettable story I’m so glad I read.





Photo from my Instagram account


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