City of Girls #BookReview

Elizabeth Gilbert | June 2019

By now you should know, I hate to say, I’ve disliked a book. It’s a body of work, presumably, someone’s fretted, prayed and worked on months or even years. I try to remember the book has appealed, for sure, to at least one person before me – the writer. Surely, I can pull something positive out of this situation?

Eh, that sounds harsh. It wasn’t 1Q84 bad. The story is readable. The main characters is not likable. The narrator, Vivian, now an old woman living in some sort of nursing care home, who receives a letter from a young girl, asking about the nature of Viv’s relationship with her father. Well, this kicks Viv into an almost 500 page retelling of her life. The kid asks her about one man, one relationship and Viv decides to tell her the story of her life, beginning with how she lost her virginity to an old veterinarian, whom she thought was a medical doctor, in a dilapidated boarding house when she was 19. 🤦🏾‍♀️ You keep reading because the words are descriptive and paint interesting, though colorless (u feel me🙄), pictures of mid 20th century New York’s theater district. You’re reading, distracted by the pictures the words create, waiting for all the frivolousness to come full circle and answer the girls damn question, when you realize, you’ve forgotten the question. So, instead of the last hundred pages or so being exciting or climatic, as the writer kind of gets to the point, they are a bit sad. One, Viv’s life, I guess well lived on average, wasn’t really that exciting nor worth the retelling. And, her and ol’boy wasn’t shit. They were friends. Good ones but, friends. There. I said it. It’s no real spoiler.

Read this book for what it is: a story about an average white girl with money and one talent, (I couldn’t decide if the one talent was sex or sewing!) coming of age in New York’s vibrant theatre district pre/post WWII where she interprets everything through her white washed, entitled brain. While surrounded by every type of person possible – lesbian, gay, great jazz places and musicians…all she can focus on is a dumb boy and how mad her absent brother gets over a less than discreet tryst? 🤦🏾‍♀️ Sure, Auntie isn’t a lesbian drunk. She and the lady I call Aunt but, have no blood relation to, have been sleeping in the same bed for 20 years and daddy has no relationship with her but… fiddle-de-dee. 🙄🤦🏾‍♀️

Pro: Im pressed for words here. 🤷🏾‍♀️ There are some interesting supporting characters that I wish we could learn more about. Celia, the friend with whom she explores he sexuality, her Uncle the philanderer, and her Aunt Peg’s girlfriend all leave the story far too early, in my opinion. The friendship story between her and the young woman’s father, the subject of the initial question, and the overall plot is a good one. Wild child of well to do family in suburbs of New York, gets banished to the city after flunking out of college. Shenanigans should ensue.

Con: Don’t hold your breathe waiting for those shenanigans. Literally, one shenanigan happens. 🤦🏾‍♀️ It’s also a waste to have 1960 New York as a backdrop, and we barely scratch the surface. Viv vaguely remembers hearing Billy Holiday sing, was unimpressed seeing Joe Lewis fight and barely validates there is an entire war being fought, outside of the fact it’s hard for her to find textiles.

Reviews on this book are typically mixed, leaning to the negative. Viv is self absorbed and is either remarkably oblivious or too ignorant to pick up on most of what is happening around her. Maybe that was the authors point of elaborating so much on her flunking out of school? 🤷🏾‍♀️ If you can tolerate that sort of human and happen to like stories told during this era, go for it! My vote says read the authors earlier work: Eat, Pray, Love. Slightly more palatable characters and the spiritual premise is nice. #OkBook 27 of 36.

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