City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, a book review.
Vivian is an old woman approached with a question from a girl trying to make connections to someone they both share. The girl wants to know what Vivian was to her father, our only clue is given, it’s a man. Told in the first person, Vivian retells her life story so the question can be satisfied.
The story instantly drops us off with Vivian in the early 1900s as a nineteen-year-old student. She’s a bit of a misfit compared to her stuffy formal family and they cast her off to live in NYC when she fails out of college. Her eccentric aunt owns a rundown theatre where the clientele and the shows are low budget. There Vivian entangles herself in a crowd of dancers, singers, pay writes, and free thinkers who show her a life full of parties, drinking, men, and late nights. Quite scandalous. This is where the story lingers for a long time, longer than I think truly necessary. While it was fun to read about the young misadventures of her and her friend Celia, it became repetitive.
The story takes a turn when Vivian finds herself in the middle of a high profile newsworthy situation that could ruin her and her family forever. In an attempt to recover from the horrors her life in NYC brought her she returns home to a boring and proper life of her parent’s design. There she fakes it to make it until one day her aunt from the city comes calling for her again.
This is the point I was waiting for. Keep in mind, we’re about 2/3 through the book and we still don’t know who the hell Vivian is telling the story to or who the story related to in regards to the question. Some man Vivian had a relationship in some way. There weren’t too many male characters so I struggled to make the connection. It’s really not until near the end of the book we meet this man.
All I could think of was some poor mid-life woman asking Vivian if she knew her this man and what their relationship was. Then Vivian bursting into this story that covered well over four-hundred pages. Wow, thanks grandmom, that’s quite the long story you got there. Complete with repeats and areas that didn’t really pertain much to the point.
At the end of the story we see Vivian grow and mature. She gets her feet on the ground through the original reason she left NYC is never too far behind her, she is determined to make a life for herself as she defines it. I enjoyed the characters that were introduced late into the book and the pace at the end was substantially quicker than the first half of the book.
I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 because the character’s growth is what kept me going. I also felt a connection to the timeframe the book covered, the war played an important role but was not the focus of the book which is hard to do. The visuals were excellent and the characters were rich enough to keep me plugged into them. It’s a bigger book and I committed after the first one-hundred pages even with a bit of reluctance.
We do find the answer to the original question presented at the beginning. Though it’s a round-about type answer, I’ll give Vivian credit for not leaving any stones unturned.