Book Review #43: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 5⭐️
Title: City of Girls: A Novel
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert (Audio Book Narrated by Blair Brown)
Published: 2019 (Riverhead Books – Audible Version)
Pages: 15 hrs 8 mins (Audible Audiobook, Unabridged Version)
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Adult Fiction, Coming-Of-Age
CW: Sexual Content, PTSD Triggers, Death, Alcohol Abuse, Infidelity, War
Link Here

My audiobook copy of City of Girls next to my NYC mug

It’s Sunday everyone… another weekend has passed sooner than I would have liked. But, another audiobook is in the books (literally)! I just finished the turbulent and enchanting novel, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I actually did not realize until I started reading this one that it was written by the same author who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. This is the first novel that I have read by Gilbert. But, after much thought and contemplation about this book, I really enjoyed the overall story. I do not read a lot of WWII-era setting novels, but this one had a lot of heart and was unique for a few vibrant reasons.

“…We may fall victim to the misconception that time will heal all wounds and that eventually everything will shake itself out. But as we get older, we learn this sad truth: some things can never be fixed. Some mistakes can never be put right—not by the passage of time, and not by our most fervent wishes, either” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

City of Girls is a novel in the format of the main character, Vivian Morris, writing a letter to a woman named Angela about her life looking back as an old woman. That is, her life starting from arriving to New York City at 19 years old in 1940 after dropping out of Vassar College. Vivian, as an old woman, looks back at her life in fondness and describes her rises and failings as she grows up and the colorful cast of characters, friends and family in her life. Vivian experiences love, loss, Broadway theater, deep humiliation, the effects of World War II – all within the city of famous glittering lights. It’s a coming of age story about an inconsequential, beautiful and privileged person who lived a large life. The book itself was very exciting and vibrant, and Gilbert makes the city come to life from start to finish.

Anyway, 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” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

It took me a bit to get into this one. The beginning started out promising, and I heavily enjoyed the story. But like so many others I read reviews from, I found the middle dreadfully dull and uneventful. It seemed to be the longest part of the book with absolutely no build up, it was like a hiatus of sorts. The middle took me the longest to finish and I kept stopping. Luckily the story redeemed itself, and there was purpose to it all… for the most part, it definitely could have been shorter though. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I won’t say more than that. The narrator, Blair Brown, was great and she voiced Vivian in a way that I could imagine her sounding. Some of the accents she did for the other characters, especially male ones, I was not too much of a fan of… But I don’t want to be too picky, she was a satisfactory narrator overall. The characters were absolutely well-formulated and eccentric, and the dialogue was capturing. Gilbert did a wonderful job transporting the reader to another time and era.

The world is always changing. Learn how to allow for it. Someone makes a promise, and then they break it. A play gets good notices, and then it folds. A marriage looks strong, and then they divorce. For a while there’s no war, and then there’s another war. If you get too upset about it all, you become a stupid, unhappy person—and where’s the good in that?” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

I thought I would dislike the main character, especially with her being so childish and vain at times. But she ended up having a charming and effective voice, and the way the author wrote her as this oddball outsider for someone who was incredibly privileged, white and upper class was incredibly interesting. But Vivian was an outsider compared to the time she was living in. Why should you read this book? If you are interested in historical fiction novels taking place in mostly WWII-era/1950s about odd and colorful persons in New York City with some drama and romance mixed in, this is the book for you. I could not get enough of the vivid and capturing descriptions of New York and the places the characters went and visited.

… But to become an adult, one must step into the field of honor. Everything will be expected of you now. You will need to be vigilant in your principles. Sacrifices will be demanded. You will be judged. If you make mistakes, you must account for them. There will be instances when you must cast aside your impulses and take a higher stance than another person—a person without honor—might take. Such instances may hurt, but that’s why honor is a painful field” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

I’m definitely glad I read this book. The format was strange for me, in the format of writing a letter, but it was effective and eventually made sense in the end. Try to power through the middle if you try to pick this one up and have the same problem I had, the ending is definitely kind of beautiful and rewarding! Plus this book is advertised as a romance, but honestly, don’t expect this great love story from start to finish with trials and tribulations. There is a some-what traditional love story, of course, but my favorite love story in the book was between Vivian and New York City.

I give this one a 4 out of 5!


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