Elizabeth Gilbert was there for me when I needed her. That’s the only way I can describe what happened when I read Eat, Pray, Love, which I think people greatly misjudge. It’s about a moment and getting out of that moment. I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project around the same time, for the same reasons. I was in a rut.
Since then I’ve dipped in and out of Gilbert’s work. I love her non fiction but City Of Girls is the first of her novels I’ve read. It’s a wonderful work of historical fiction, witty, a little silly and fabulous.
In the summer of 1940 Vivian Morris is expelled from Vassar College and moves to New York City to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns and runs a theater in Time’s Square, The Lily. The Lily puts on trashy, half assed entertainments and Vivian falls in love with life there.
She also, sort of, falls in love with a showgirl named Celia Ray and the two spend the summer running around New York partying. When a legitimate actress and old friend of Peg’s shows up, The Lily goes legit, and Vivian finds herself caught up in a scandal that brings her frivolous world crashing down around her.
It’s a hard plot to sum up because not a lot happens, it’s a feeling book, made up largely of how Vivian relates to the people, and especially the women around her. It’s about those times in our lives that make us who we are and why they’re important. And I like that in a novel, especially a historical fiction novel. I also like that about Gilbert’s writing so I think that this fits.
It’s a worthwhile book, not a game changer, but lovely, smart, and an interesting picture of a place and time. Gilbert’s writing tics are present, and the Vivian’s voice sometimes feels a bit too contemporary to my ears, but otherwise, it’s worth reading.
Up Next: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, it’s time for some romance and silliness. YAY!