Much like Where the Crawdads Sing earlier this spring, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book City of Girls seems like IT. IS. EVERYWHERE. right now. It’s like the book of the summer for middle-class white women this year. 

“. . .at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” 

― Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

I listened to this on Audible over the course of the past week, and it was compelling. It’s essentially a letter turned memoir written by Vivian Morris, a New York City seamstress, to a woman named Angela, who we know Vivian knows but that’s about all we know until 26 chapters in. 

Vivian moved to the city in 1940 and quickly falls into a life of theater, glamour and sex. And that seems to be all she can talk about for half of the book. I’m not much of a prude, but it was a bit heavy-handed even for me. 

A few weeks ago, the author shared a snapshot of her journal from January 2018. It said, “City of Girls is your medicine. Frothy, fun, frivolous and a gift.” She hadn’t started writing this book at that moment, which is very inspiring to me as someone who likes to get things done but is often paralyzed by the sheer number of options of things to do. 

For me, I felt like the book could have been two separate stories, but I understand why it is not. Overall, I’m glad I read it. I’m still thinking about it hours after finishing it. I’m sure I will continue to process it for days to come. 

Book Club Questions

  1. Why do you think Aunt Peg gave Vivian the opportunity to live at the Lily Playhouse after leaving Vassar?
  2. Do you think Vivian’s life would have taken a different path if she had not met Celia Ray? Why or why not?
  3. Were you surprised at who Angela turned out to be? Were you disappointed? 

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