August 08

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls is the most delightful romp and I chomped on it ravenously like a candy apple, which is fitting because if I had one word to sum City of Girls up, it is delicious!

This story sparkles.  It is irresistible and I fell under the spell of all its characters from the get-go.  Having said this, it is not without grit and despair, but Elizabeth Gilbert has written a fantastically fun, frolicking story and it is the happiest one I have read for a long, long time. If only I had a teleporter to New York City in the pre-war 40s  to join the fun and guzzle gin fizzes which I have now decided is drink of choice when I want to feel jolly and carefree.

Feeling the firm shove out the door from her well-heeled parents after a dismal stint at Vassar, 19 year old Vivian Morris arrives in NYC in the summer of 1940 with a suitcase and a sewing machine to live with her Aunt Peg, the larger-than-life owner of the quaint yet disreputable Lily Playhouse.  Her clever skills with a needle and thread quickly means she is sewing all the costumes for the Playhouse’s showgirls and her extraordinary  creations make her the toast of the theatre and the wild, exotic girls she dresses.

Vivian transforms from quiet ingenue to a belle of New York’s night club scene playing, drinking and partying hard, partaking in every delight the city has to offer.  It is a heady time, made more fervent as war lurks in the shadows.  No single pleasure is denied and days begin with the crippling hangovers but end with more corks popping.  It is an exciting life until all things, as they can do,  come crashing down in pieces and Vivian is driven from the city of girls home to her parents, shamed and bruised.

The war arrives offering Vivian a lucky chance to get back to the city she loves.  She adapts to a new world order and transforms again because as a survivor she knows to live the life she truly wants, she must live many lives, in many unconventional ways.

City of Girls is filled with spectacular heroines.  Courageous women doing what they want at a time many couldn’t. They each experience, in their own way,  dizzying pleasure and excruciating pain, success and failure all played out against the sparkling, hypnotic background of the city that never sleeps.  I was as addicted to each of the characters as they were to their champagne and gin fizzes.  Our only difference is I enjoyed better morning-afters.

And that is my 2 cents worth.