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City of Girls - Elizabeth Gilbert

Paperback Published: 4th June 2019
ISBN: 9781526610423
Number Of Pages: 480

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It is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg's charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses.

Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company's most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in her wake. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

'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,' she confides. And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her – women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.

Staff Review by Ben Hunter

There are few things as enticing as a new book from Elizabeth Gilbert.

Gilbert is royalty among American writers today, having been crowned doubly as a commercial success for the international phenomenon Eat Pray Love and also as a powerhouse of critical acclaim for her widely celebrated books, including her Women’s Prize-listed novel The Signature of All Things. You, our Booktopia customers, have praised her effervescent writing and life-changing stories in 5-star reviews, and our own team of booksellers got goosebumps when word of this new novel broke.

That’s right, Elizabeth Gilbert has returned with her first new novel since The Signature of All Things and it’s going to be a momentous occasion for book lovers. City of Girls is a bright and compulsively readable coming-of-age story cast against the heady, glamourous, and harsh world of 1940s New York.

Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris comes into the care of her Aunt Peg, who lives above the shambolic Lily Playhouse in midtown Manhattan where the air is thick with music, cigarettes, gin, and show girls. Vivian is enchanted by these crass, slovenly, yet exquisitely beautiful women and finds favour among them by channelling her talent for dressmaking into costuming the Lily’s tacky and ill-rehearsed shows. The show girls in turn initiate her into their world of rampant drinking, dancing, and sex.

The story is complicated by the arrival of the remarkable Edna Watson, a revered English actress and long time friend of Peg. In her honour, the Lily attempts to mount its most ambitious production yet, placing the impoverished theatre and the hard-drinking lifestyle of its residents under immense pressure. In a great slew of events, our characters are transformed by some terrible mistakes and the distant fantasy of the war in the Pacific finally hits home for Vivian. In the later parts of the novel, Gilbert sweeps through Vivian’s adult life – what she leaves behind and the small wonders of life that come good.

Readers of City of Girls will embrace these unbridled pursuits of discovery and pleasure by our story’s narrator and in them find the thoughtful treatment of female sexuality and friendship, and the makeshift family that so resonated in The Signature of All Things.

It’s storytelling at its finest – deeply touching, richly researched, and endlessly funny. Gilbert’s wit is of Olympian stamina and laser precision, and the voice that narrates this novel cannot be amply described – you need to experience it for yourself. I revelled in City of Girls to the very last page.

Industry Reviews

“Wherever Liz Gilbert goes, we'll follow”
Oprah magazine, Best book releases, 2019

“'For years, I have wanted to write a novel about women who have a lot of sex, and who like it, and whose lives aren't destroyed by it,” says Eat, Pray, Love author Gilbert. This is that book, set across the glittering fabric of a lost New York”
Red, The books we can't wait to read 2019

“Young women come of age in war time New York, in the new novel from the author of Eat, Pray, Love
Guardian, 2019 in books: what you'll be reading this year

ISBN: 9781526610423
ISBN-10: 1526610426
Audience: BAU
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 480
Published: 4th June 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.2 x 15.4  x 3.7
Weight (kg): 0.63

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Elizabeth Gilbert

About the Author


Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1969, and grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm. She attended New York University, where she studied political science by day and worked on her short stories by night. After college, she spent several years traveling around the country, working in bars, diners and ranches, collecting experiences to transform into fiction.

These explorations eventually formed the basis of her first book – a short story collection called PILGRIMS, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and which moved Annie Proulx to call her “a young writer of incandescent talent”.

During these early years in New York, she also worked as a journalist for such publications as Spin, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. She was a three-time finalist for The National Magazine Award, and an article she wrote in GQ about her experiences bartending on the Lower East Side eventually became the basis for the movie COYOTE UGLY.

In 2000, Elizabeth published her first novel, STERN MEN (a story of brutal territory wars between two remote fishing islands off the coast of Maine) which was a New York Times Notable Book. In 2002, Elizabeth published THE LAST AMERICAN MAN – the true story of the modern day woodsman Eustace Conway. This book, her first work of non-fiction, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Elizabeth is best known, however for her 2006 memoir EAT PRAY LOVE, which chronicled her journey alone around the world, looking for solace after a difficult divorce. The book was an international bestseller, translated into over thirty languages, with over 12 million copies sold worldwide. In 2010, EAT PRAY LOVE was made into a film starring Julia Roberts. The book became so popular that Time Magazine named Elizabeth as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In 2010, Elizabeth published a follow-up to EAT PRAY LOVE called COMMITTED—a memoir which explored her ambivalent feelings about the institution of marriage. The book immediately became a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and was also received with warm critical praise. As Newsweek wrote, COMMITTED “retains plenty of Gilbert’s comic ruefulness and wide-eyed wonder”, and NPR called the book “a rich brew of newfound insight and wisdom.”

Her 2013 novel THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is a sprawling tale of 19th century botanical exploration. O Magazine named it “the novel of a lifetime”, and the Wall Street Journal called it “the most ambitious and purely-imagined work of (Gilbert’s) twenty-year career.” THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS was a New York Times Bestseller, and Janet Maslin called it “engrossing…vibrant and hot-blooded.” The novel was named a Best Book of 2013 by The New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The New Yorker.”

In 2015, she published BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR—a book that encapsulates the joyful spirit of adventure and permission that Elizabeth has always brought to her work and to her life.

Her latest novel is CITY OF GIRLS — a rollicking, sexy tale of the New York City theater world during the 1940s. It will be published in June of 2019.

Elizabeth divides her time between New York City, rural New Jersey, and everywhere else.

Visit Elizabeth Gilbert's Booktopia Author Page


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