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Summary

The blazingly brilliant new novel from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the international best seller Eat Pray Love: a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of a lost New York. 

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 be free, to get up to no good, 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 the wake of this true, true star. 

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.

©2019 Elizabeth Gilbert (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about City of Girls

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One of my favourite ever audibles

I bought this book without reading what it was about, just because I adore Elizabeth Gilbert from her social media pages - even though admittedly I'd only read Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic previously. I expected Elizabeth to be narrating and thought it was likely a positive inspiration or guidance type of book, so I was a bit taken back to hear a different voice. I find it so difficult to connect with narrators- either loving or hating it. Well I LOVE Blair Brown, I can't even imagine Elizabeth narrating it, Blair is incredible with all the different accents and characters, I wouldn't have picked this book of the shelf but I'm so glad I downloaded it - it's definitely one that should be 'listened' to so you can really take in the surroundings and especially the characters. It's kind of slow-paced but deliberately - between Elizabeth and Blair you are taken back in time to 1940's New York City and I honestly felt like I was there, witnessing a snap shot in time, a life so different from my own but one I would jump at to live in for a while. You don't understand the person she is writing to until towards the end of the book but this one way letter format is perfect. It sounds much less self-obsessed and you really connect with the main character; Vivian. I must confess I put audible on whilst I do boring jobs or the school run to make that time more enjoyable - but I would listen to this every chance I got, it's more about feeling like you are there living it more than a story of dramas, I think there IS only 1 major drama half way through, the rest is just experiencing and enjoying, it's so plausible that this was someones life I wondered a few times if it was a true story, there are certainly true parts about the war in it - whilst the war is always kind of background anyway. When it ended I had that book-grief , a hole you're not sure how to fill because there'll not be anything quite the same but you're not ready for something new or different yet. Like you get with series-binging too. It was FABULOUS, Elizabeth & Blair have created a masterpiece between them in my eyes (or ears)

40 people found this helpful

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Chick Lit at its worst.

Juvenile prose. I do not believe this would have been published if it was a first novel.

24 people found this helpful

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Enchanting I lived every minute of this book

I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert writes. I feel I witnessed every moment of Vivienne’s life . Very humbling a lesson to be learned not to be judgemental about how people live their lives.Thank you

12 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable but doesnt hit the mark.

Elizabeth Gilbert has done, as usual, a whole load of research in order to write this novel. It was very a very entertaining story and at times, thought provoking, but ultimately it left me feeling unsatisfied. Listen to her previous novel The Signature of All Things. Fabulous book.

14 people found this helpful

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  • R
  • 21-07-20

Entertaining and easy

The narration to this story is superb, her accents are very real and transport you straight to Manhattan. An entertaining story about the fast paced party life of a young woman. I really enjoyed it.

6 people found this helpful

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Sinfully witty, delightful and profound!

I have been dreading the end of this book. I wanted to postpone it but here we are. It’s an entire world on its own and the characters are are more real than you can imagine ! It is nothing short of an absolute masterpiece which will touch your soul in a thousand different ways. Also, It’s def a book you can reread and discover new things every single time. Elizabeth Gilbert, we are in your depth. Thank you!

6 people found this helpful

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Couldn't finish

Sooooo bad. So many books! So little time to waste reading trash such as this.

5 people found this helpful

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Didn't really go anywhere,

I was overall, disappointed with this book. the start was promising and I loved the background and the building if the characters. Half way through I forgot that we were waiting to find out the 'truth' behind Vivienne and Angela's father's relationship.
then it started to get rushed, very little detail on the new characters, whole decades were described in a couple of sentences.
when we were introduced to Frank, it was more disappointment and a very rushed ending, it was almost as though the author had reached her word count and had to stop.

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struggled with it

I'm not sure if it was the readers voice or the fact it was supposed to represent a letter (the longest letter ever!!)

5 people found this helpful

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Stuck with it

I was unsure for quite a while but loved it in the end. One of my favourite authors.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • 11-06-19

Brimming with wisdom and throughly entertaining

This book lived up to my every expectation. I'm devastated that I've finished it, but feel so enriched.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Annabel Roberts
  • 20-08-19

A delight

What a light and joyful yet significant story. It was stunningly read. I loved it!

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • KeziaLivesLegendary
  • 15-06-19

Such a Beautiful story

Loved, loved, loved. Elizabeth Gilberts books are always amazing. Perfect choice on the narrators. Didn't stop listening.
I really enjoyed the character's

2 people found this helpful

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  • Andries
  • 09-06-19

Exception

I have found this story telling so sublime and real without hesitation of facts that society always try to cover up.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Francisca
  • 22-01-20

Meandering

I found this story disjointed and meandering- lots of under developed relationships and characters. Feels like she was trying to do too much with this book. The reading and performance however was fantastic

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tala!
  • 19-04-22

So raw and powerful

Friendship, lust, joy, guilt, grief and just life in a story … a beautiful, story well told too… I loved every chapter and every character in it…

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-06-21

Delightful!

This story is just delightful! Full of life, joy and colourful lessons in one the saddest times the world has ever known. The reader brings the story, in the form of a letter, to life and made me wish I was part of her ‘family’.

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  • heken
  • 10-01-21

Great book not too heavy not too light

Great read; first half abit slow but there were some great moments and dialogues. Loved it towards the end.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-08-20

fantastic!!!

I really enjoyed the story and the performance was subperb. I totally recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-04-20

Review

Loved it.... Couldn't wait to come back to it and hear that warm soothing voice 👍