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Book Review: City of Girls

Vivian isn’t the most likeable of characters but for all her flaws, you’ll likely end up respecting her.


Book Review: City of Girls

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert took me by surprise in the best way. It follows the profoundly vain Vivian - a self-proclaimed narcissist - as she recounts the tale of how she met Angela’s father. It’s a little like the TV show How I Met Your Mother and just as long. (The story of how Vivian met Angela’s father could have been told in 100 pages rather than 500). The story starts with Vivian moving to New York City - pre World War II - to live with her aunt where she’s introduced to the world of theatre and promiscuity.

Vivian isn’t the most likeable of characters but for all her flaws, you’ll likely end up respecting her. Actually, a large number of characters aren’t likeable but they are enjoyable to read - and they feel like real characters. Some of my favourite characters, unfortunately, didn’t get the page time that I felt they deserved and were ultimately underutilised. There were also themes that I felt needed more exploration like the consequences of Vivian’s (and her friend, Celia Ray’s) promiscuity. Regardless, as a lover of rom-com's I thoroughly enjoyed this deeply ironic anti-romance novel. (The most meaningful relationship Vivian has is with someone she is never intimate with). I particularly enjoyed the punchy dialogue including this interaction between supporting characters Edna and Billy:

Very much of little consequence has transpired since last we met, my dear. Let’s sit down for a drink and talk about none of it.”
To which she replied, “There is nothing I would rather not talk about, Billy, and nobody whom I would rather not talk about it with!”

I was halfway through devouring the witty, quippy and oftentimes funny prose of City of Girls when I discovered who the author was or rather what book she was known for. I became somewhat familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert during my days as a parttime bookseller when Eat Pray Love was still all the rage. I never read the book or even saw the movie. It just didn’t appeal to me and the more popular it became, the more I shunned the author. Until now that is and let’s just say, lesson learnt.

Have you read this book? If you have, please share your thoughts with me and whether or not you enjoyed it, in the comments below.