City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is set in New York during the 1940’s. After flunking out of Vasser, Vivian is sent to live with her aunt, the owner of a shabby theater, The Lily, to repair and create costumes for showgirls. The cast of amateur actors and dancers perform melodramas for the locals who are grateful for the low ticket prices.
It’s the cast of characters that is most appealing, particularly Vivian, the protagonist, who acts as the narrator. At 90, she reaches back in time to tell her story when she is asked, “Who were you to my father?”
She weaves a tale of a wild nightlife, her first love, and mistakes she makes in a world that is new and intriguing to her. She quickly assimilates to the New York nightlife only to regret her indiscretion with the husband of Edna, who lets her know, in no uncertain terms, who she really is. That same man changes the character of the theater as well as Vivian.
I found myself highlighting so many of Gilbert’s witticisms. This is definitely a good read, even with the raunchy sex scenes. It is, after all, a coming-of-age story. Gilbert has a gift for putting you in the setting, describing vividly everything that takes you into the book. I could almost feel the feather boas, and hear the laughter from the audience. I am so glad I took it off of my “To Be Read Shelf.”
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