City of Girls
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead Books, 9781594634734, June 2019, 480pp.
The Short of It:
It has all the glitter of Broadway but was a tad too long for my distracted brain.
The Rest of It:
I must start with this. I really liked this book. The subject matter, a struggling New York theater, really appealed to me.
The story opens with Vivian Morris explaining to a young woman named Angela, what exactly went down in New York City, circa 1940, and how she came to know her father, Frank. In telling her story, Vivian goes back to when she was a 19-year-old college dropout. Well-to-do, but without goals. She goes to live with her Aunt Peg, who happens to own a failing theatre company and there she discovers who she really is.
I loved the setting so much. Gilbert does an excellent job of setting the stage. A dusty old theatre, limited talent, little to no money to put on anything other than the formulaic shows that only the locals care to see. Vivian has a knack for costuming and finds herself in the thick of it when a famous actress decides to take up residence at the theatre. Edna, is aging but still as glamorous as can be. Vivian is completely smitten with her so when Pam decides to build an entire show around Edna, Vivian creates the most beautiful costumes for her, but a bad decision down the line changes everything and forces Vivian to reflect on her recent actions.
Vivian’s youth and her affinity for hanging out with one particular showgirl gets her into some trouble. There’s a lot of drinking and philandering and although the book is titled City of Girls, it could easily be titled City of WILD Girls. Their antics are amusing, until they’re not.
A good 100 pages could have been cut from this book but if you were a theatre kid or spend a lot of time in theatre now, as I do, you will appreciate this story and enjoy it. The characters leap off the page and are quite memorable. Overall I enjoyed I enjoyed it very much.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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16 thoughts on “Review: City of Girls”
I’m very impatient with books that are unnecessarily long these days so I may skip this.
I haven’t read any other Gilbert books so I can’t compare but the story for this one was good… just needed to be tightened up a bit pace wise.
I loved the first part of this book, the part at the theater. But once we left the theater, things really dragged for me.
Yeah, I liked the war stuff much less than the theatre parts. I am just not a fan of war at all.
I liked the audio a lot as well (but, way too log). Unfortunately, the same is true for The audio of The Institute – 18.5 hours – liked it but way, way, too long.
I am about a dozen chapters into the King book now. I fell right in. He’s so good about pulling you in early. I don’t care of it’s long. I need the distraction.
I read the first 150 pages a couple months ago, but set it aside when life got so crazy. Haven’t thought about going back to it yet…
That’s the thing about City of Girls, you can put it aside for a long while so then it takes forever to read. I really did like the story though once I committed to it. I was just trying to read it along with books that were not bringing me joy, at all.
I loved this book a lot. I read it on a fifteen hour car ride home from our vacation….so the length was just fine for me.
“A good 100 pages could have been cut from this book”, I think I’ll pass on it.
The setting sounds perfect for you, too bad it felt overly long.
This sounds good but 100 pgs of froth that could be cut…hmmm. Maybe there’s an audio?
It didn’t really seem like froth but a little too drawn out for my tastes.
Well, maybe I’ll give this a try! My feeling about Gilbert’s last book, the one about old-time botanists?, was that it also could have done with about 100 pages being cut from it, but I am a sucker for old time theaters.
I’m a little more patient with long books since finishing the Goldfinch last month (now that’s long!). But I wonder if City Girls will test my patience. I sort of want to read her biologist novel first.
I think you’d enjoy City of Girls, actually.