My review of City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, a vibrant tale about life, love, sex, and New York City that’s long gone, but its magic still enchants many.
City of Girls is a story told by Vivian, who is an older woman now. But she was once a young girl, considered a bit too unconventional by her environment. When she’s become a little too much for her school, Vivian’s parents decided that the only way to deal with her troublesome nature was to send the girl to her aunt. Aunt Peg was not an ordinary woman herself, as she owned a theatre in New York City. She was also free-spirited (and not very liked by the rest of the fam), so she seemed to be a perfect guardian for young Vivian.
And so the colorful tale begins.
Shortly speaking, City of Girls is a smart, funny, and sexy novel about growing up and about the complexity of human relationships. But it’s also so much more. The action is filled with breathtaking showgirls, colorful costumes, charismatic stars of the big screen, and struggles to keep that machine called theater going. And all that in the shadow of a war, that is still somewhere else, but everyone can feel that something bad is inevitably coming. And so for Vivian comes adulthood, with all its difficult choices and responsibilities. Because in the world as hectic as Aunt Peg’s theatre, it is easy to get blinded by the sparkling lights of a big city.
I absolutely loved this novel. I can honestly say that it instantly became one of my favorite books of all time (no exaggeration here!). Not that I haven’t expected a great piece of literature from Elizabeth Gilbert- I was familiar with her other books, such as Eat, Pray, Love, or Pilgrims– but that was truly beyond everything I could hope for. The story is compelling, with a little bit of mystery (after all, Vivian’s love stories are far from ordinary!). But the thing I loved the most is probably this unique and electrifying atmosphere that every page is soaked with. As if nothing could compete with New York at its finest.
I remember when I first saw an ad for City of Girls, and I thought that the cover was pretty awesome. Oh, how happy I was to discover that the story itself is even better! The writing style of Elizabeth Gilbert is superb. I literally wanted to be a part of the theatrical company of Aunt Peg, that’s how appealing the atmosphere of the book is. I was also impressed by how well the characters are developed. Some are not so likable (or they’re just annoying), but they all sparkle with wit, humor, and charisma. I think this is one of those books that stays with you for a while. An enchanting world of theatre and the colorful image of New York in the late ’30s are not so easy to forget. But there’s also deep wisdom in this book. It shows that life is not always as light as we want to see it, but also that, despite all its horrors, there is so much joy in life. And that great love might come unexpectedly. And it may look nothing like we imagined.
I’ve read City of Girls in Polish (the title is Miasto dziewcząt), in the translation of Katarzyna Karłowska. The description on the back cover says that this is “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.” And I have to agree with every single word. Gorgeous book. Oh, so gorgeous.