CITY OF GIRLS: The Power of Words, Freedom and Forgiveness


city of girls

Written by: Elizabeth Gilbert
Read by: Blair Brown
15 Hours and 9 Minutes
PRHA | Imprint: Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Release Date: June 04, 2019

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


“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.


My Take Oblong Shaped


This book, literary fiction, was an absolutely fabulous audiobook (and would, I am sure , be a great read) spanning one woman’s life from getting kicked out of Vassar through in the late 1930s  up to 2010.  I loved her stories, and the passion with which she lived.  At first she was a little immature. and until her big drunken mistake she hadn’t yet put her life’s philosophy into words and she acted like her behavior had no consequences. 

When she makes her huge mistake, and she is rescued by someone who calls her something terrible which she hears in her head for years. Finally, losing herself in her work she comes to grips with the battle between her unconventional life — the freedom she knows is her genuine self, and societal mores.  To live her truth, she has to give up the idea of being acceptable to her  parents and to some people.  And, she is willing to make that sacrifice. 

When her life comes full circle she learns about forgiveness in a way that she has not before.  And it is looking back from that vantage point that she tells us the brilliant story of her wondrous life with a depth of introspection that is stunning. The historical aspects are well-researched, fun and sad.  I loved her time in NYC  working with her aunt at a small theatre and some exciting events. Her ability to sew, learned from her unconventional  grandmother, is her way to creative expression and a way to make a living while she lived free of societal norms.

I am certain that the narration by the talented actor Blair Brown added immeasurably to my enjoyment of the story; her ability to give different, appropriate, and consistent voice to the various characters was truly outstanding.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a story with meaning and heart.  I know I will be thinking about it for a long time.


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