City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Trigger Warning: This novel and it’s review contain descriptions of and mention the following topics: LGBTQ, sex, alcoholism, prostitution.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars


I have been looking forward to reading this book since the moment I found out it was going to be published. I LOVE Gilbert’s writing, and even more so, her fiction. When I heard that this novel was going to be about a young woman in New York City in the 1940s, with a nod to Sex and the City / The Devil Wears Prada and a 1940s fashion spin with frivolity, I was screaming TAKE MY MONEY. I bought my own copy just weeks after it was published, and then delayed reading while I got caught up on my library audios and a few book requests. Then, I started in on the hardcover, only to progress way too slowly for my liking- the problem was my schedule, NOT the book!- so I switched over to the audiobook in order to tear through the read, as I had initially intended.

No matter the format, this book is spectacular. Gilbert introduces Vivian, a daughter of some New England blue-bloods who is bored to tears with the planned life her parents wished upon her. As they grew frustrated with her poor grades and determination to break the mold set for her, they send her off to live with her eccentric aunt in NYC. Her Aunt Peg and her estranged Uncle Billy had purchased a rundown theater in Hell’s Kitchen, dubbed The Lily. Now run by Peg and her assistant, Olive, The Lily had seen better days and better plays, but Vivian was immediately entranced by the glamour of the theater scene. She immediately makes friends with the actors and her aunt’s creative group, and is shown the ropes by all the showgirls, and in particular, Celia Ray. Running about New York City, Vivian falls for the gritty city and the ruffians that keep her whirling throughout it.

As the time with her aunt progresses, Vivian is introduced to the great Edna Parker Walter, a theater star from London who has come seeking refuge from WWII. Vivian is fascinated with her, and as they get to know each other, Vivian stuns Edna with her fashion design prowess. In addition, Peg decides that they must put Edna in a production, causing an revival of The Lily. When the show is a success, there is much to celebrate, but when Vivian and Celia go overboard one night, Vivian finally gets a reality check that makes her decide what kind of person she wants to be in life.

As she grows older and learns from her mistakes, what is a winding letter from Vivian concludes with the knowledge that to be loved and accepted doesn’t always mean being being conventional. Gilbert’s writing, as it always does for me, transports my mind to a different place, allowing me to step into another’s shoes and completely lose myself. I got lost in the glamour, the drama, and the brutal honesty of the New York made woman.

Though the length of the book and the letter format isn’t exactly a practical nor realistic point, it does allow Vivian to be honest and thorough. While this isn’t a believable tactic, it wasn’t distracting enough for me to balk at it. Additionally, while the length (470 pages) is intimidating, it’s a very fast paced novel. Had I more time to read the physical copy, I’m positive I would have torn through it in about 2-3 days, tops.

Published: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Riverhead Books

TL/DR: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is a novel about a young woman living in 1940s New York City, and her coming of age.

Read it? Absolutely. If you’re a Gilbert fan, it’s a must, but it’s perfect for all looking for a good time read.

Recommend it? Yes!!!

Buy it? Yes! It’s a gorgeous hard cover that belongs on your bookshelves. And yes, I did buy the copy pictured above- and it’s a beauty with the signature in it!

If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:

  • Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid



Categories: Book Review, Fiction, General, Historical

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