City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls
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City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert

New York, 1940. Young, glamorous and inseparable, Vivian and Celia are chasing trouble from one end of the city to the other. But there is risk in all this play - that’s what makes it so fun, and so dangerous. Sometimes, the world may feel like it’s ending, but for Vivian and Celia, life is just beginning.

City of Girls is about daring to break conventions and follow your desires: a celebration of glamour, resilience, growing up, and the joys of female friendship - and about the freedom that comes from finding a place you truly belong.    


This generous novel is not for fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Rather, it is for readers that want to be taken on a glorious, fictitious adventure through the 1940s and beyond. Set in New York, the narrative focuses on Vivian Morris’s life and her inability to conform to societal expectations. In desperation, her conservative parents send her as a nineteen-year-old to the Big Apple to live with the family renegade, Aunt Peg, who owns a charming but disreputable Manhattan revue theatre, the Lily Playhouse. Once there, Vivian quickly creates – for herself! – the role of theatre seamstress and becomes indispensable to Aunt Peg and the revue’s showgirls.

The lives of the women that reside and work in the theatre are applauded, not judged, in this novel. Gilbert said, ‘I have wanted to write a novel about women who have a lot of sex, and who like it, and whose lives aren’t destroyed by it.’ This philosophy generates delicious reading. Of course, the central female characters feel anger at the exploitation and hypocrisy faced by women, but they don’t allow this to hinder their lifestyle. They choose instead to adopt the jubilance and freedom that comes with living and being part of a collective. There is so much joy to be found in this novel as it explores the central characters’ concepts of humanity and community, and, as they age, the changing landscape and politics that form a backdrop to their lives. The effect is an adventure story that captures a kaleidoscope of colour and courage.

Gilbert’s enchanting City of Girls is an epic novel that will delight readers of Meg Wolitzer, Maria Semple and our own Liane Moriarty. It is the perfect novel with which to escape our winter blues. I truly enjoyed every page of this wondrous book.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

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