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City of Girls
Cover of City of Girls
City of Girls
A Novel
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AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young...
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young...
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Description-

  • AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

    From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don't have to be a good girl to be a good person.
    "A spellbinding novel about love, freedom, and finding your own happiness." - PopSugar
    "Intimate and richly sensual, razzle-dazzle with a hint of danger." -USA Today
    "Pairs well with a cocktail...or two." -TheSkimm

    "Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are."
    Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.
    In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
    Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    ONE

    In the summer of 1940, when I was nineteen years old and an idiot, my parents sent me to live with my Aunt Peg, who owned a theater company in New York City.

    I had recently been excused from Vassar College, on account of never having attended classes and thereby failing every single one of my freshman exams. I was not quite as dumb as my grades made me look, but apparently it really doesn't help if you don't study. Looking back on it now, I cannot fully recall what I'd been doing with my time during those many hours that I ought to have spent in class, but-knowing me-I suppose I was terribly preoccupied with my appearance. (I do remember that I was trying to master a "reverse roll" that year-a hairstyling technique that, while infinitely important to me and also quite challenging, was not very Vassar.)

    I'd never found my place at Vassar, although there were places to be found there. All different types of girls and cliques existed at the school, but none of them stirred my curiosity, nor did I see myself reflected in any of them. There were political revolutionaries at Vassar that year wearing their serious black trousers and discussing their opinions on international foment, but I wasn't interested in international foment. (I'm still not. Although I did take notice of the black trousers, which I found intriguingly chic-but only if the pockets didn't bulge.) And there were girls at Vassar who were bold academic explorers, destined to become doctors and lawyers long before many women did that sort of thing. I should have been interested in them, but I wasn't. (I couldn't tell any of them apart, for one thing. They all wore the same shapeless wool skirts that looked as though they'd been constructed out of old sweaters, and that just made my spirits low.)

    It's not like Vassar was completely devoid of glamour. There were some sentimental, doe-eyed medievalists who were quite pretty, and some artistic girls with long and self-important hair, and some highbred socialite types with profiles like Italian greyhounds-but I didn't befriend any of them. Maybe it's because I sensed that everybody at this school was smarter than me. (This was not entirely youthful paranoia; I uphold to this day that everybody there was smarter than me.)

    To be honest, I didn't understand what I was doing at college, aside from fulfilling a destiny whose purpose nobody had bothered explaining to me. From earliest childhood, I'd been told that I would attend Vassar, but nobody had told me why. What was it all for? What was I meant to get out of it, exactly? And why was I living in this cabbagey little dormitory room with an earnest future social reformer?

    I was so fed up with learning by that time, anyhow. I'd already studied for years at the Emma Willard School for Girls in Troy, New York, with its brilliant, all-female faculty of Seven Sisters graduates-and wasn't that enough? I'd been at boarding school since I was twelve years old, and maybe I felt that I had done my time. How many more books does a person need to read in order to prove that she can read a book? I already knew who Charlemagne was, so leave me alone, is how I saw it.

    Also, not long into my doomed freshman year at Vassar, I had discovered a bar in Poughkeepsie that offered cheap beer and live jazz deep into the night. I'd figured out a way to sneak off campus to patronize this bar (my cunning escape plan involving an unlocked lavatory window and a hidden bicycle-believe me, I was the bane of the house warden), thereby making it difficult for me to absorb Latin conjugations first thing in the morning because I was usually hungover.

    There were other obstacles, as well.

    I had...

About the Author-

  • Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Magic, Eat Pray Love, and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. Gilbert began her career writing for Harper's Bazaar, Spin, the New York Times Magazine, and GQ, and was a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award. Her story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award; The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The follow-up memoir Committed became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Her novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a Best Book of 2013 by the New York Times, O Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Yorker. Gilbert's short fiction has appeared in Esquire, Story, One Story, and the Paris Review. Her new novel, City of Girls, will be released June 2019.
    Blair Brown won a Tony Award for her performance in Copenhagen. She received an Ace Award and five Emmy nominations for The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. She is a an accomplished narrator for BOT, including recordings of Last Kiss by Luanne Rice and The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 8, 2019
    Gilbert (The Signature of All Things) begins her beguiling tale of an innocent young woman discovering the excitements and pleasures of 1940 New York City with a light touch, as her heroine, Vivian Morris, romps through the city. Gradually the story deepens into a psychologically keen narrative about Vivian’s search for independence as she indulges her free spirit and sexuality. Freshly expelled from Vassar for not attending any classes, 19-year-old Vivian is sent by her parents to stay with her aunt Peggy Buell in Manhattan. Peg runs a scruffy theater that offers gaudy musical comedies to its unsophisticated patrons. As WWII rages in Europe, Vivian is oblivious to anything but the wonder behind the stage, as she becomes acquainted with the players in a new musical called City of Girls, including the louche leading man with whom she falls in love with passionate abandon. Vivian flits through the nightclubs El Morocco, the Diamond Horseshoe, and the Latin Quarter, where she hears Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Louis Prima. Drinking heavily and scooting into the arms of numerous men, one night at the Stork Club she meets Walter Winchell, the notorious gossip columnist, who plays a pivotal role in the tabloid scandal in which Vivian becomes embroiled. Vivian’s voice—irreverent, witty, robust with slang—gradually darkens with guilt when she receives a devastating comeuppance. Eventually, she arrives at an understanding of the harsh truths of existence as the country plunges into WWII. Vivian—originally reckless and selfish, eventually thoughtful and humane—is the perfect protagonist for this novel, a page-turner with heart complete with a potent message of fulfillment and happiness.

  • AudioFile Magazine Blair Brown delivers a superb narration of Elizabeth Gilbert's novel, which features the recollections of a 95-year-old New York seamstress who came of age during WWII. Brown's straightforward, charming depiction illuminates the vivacious young woman the wistful elderly narrator remembers, and her conversational pacing creates vibrant pictures for the listener. In 1940, after Vivian dropped out of Vassar and moved to Manhattan to help her aunt run a decrepit theater company, she discovered the joys of an unbridled sex life and the idiosyncrasies of the acting community. She also created stunning costumes for the company, including a middle-aged British actress memorably rendered by Brown. The storytelling device of the main character writing a letter is a bit clumsy, but the novel is entertaining. N.M.C. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

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