Book Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Ms. Gilber has really outdone herself with one of the best books I’ve read this year, feminist yet realistic, with a flare that few have, the story is one that will capture your heart up until the end. A book that needs to be read with an open mind and that will transport you back to a different New York. If there would be a book that I strongly recommend you to read this year, this is the City of Girls. Warning, the review might contain spoilers.

The narrator is Vivian, an old lady now that is telling her life story in a letter to a girl that asks what was the relationship that she had with her late dad. Unable to define it herself, Vivian gives the details of her life, for the conclusion to be taken by the readers. The story of is of a 19 years old girl, who is a college dropout, and is sent by her parents to live in the New York of 1940 with her aunt Peg.

A virgin with no sexual experience, Vivian enters the world of the Lily Playhouse theater filled with burlesque dancers and showgirls, glamour, drama, and low-cost tickets. This place is going to be her home in the next months. Since her talent included sewing, she volunteers to make the costumes for the actors in the plays.  She will stay in one of the apartments from the upper floors, the one that belonged to Peg’s husband Billy, who she didn’t divorce although they were long separated and he lived in LA.

Celia, one of the showgirls, will be the one to guide Vivian through the process of sexual initiation, from staging, along with other dancers, where and with whom she will lose her virginity, to nights of partying and meeting random men. Vivians life transforms, she becomes a dressmaker by day and party girl by night. It all changes when WWII starts in London and one of the best actresses of the UK theaters joins the crew, along with Billy, the (ex)husband, who makes an appearance in NYC. They they all decide to put in place a new show, City of Girls, that will take Lily in a new direction and also the lives of everyone involved.

The moment when Vivian’s life will take a turn for the worst is when she is heartbroken and mislead into having an affair with Celia and the City of Girls’ main character’s husband. A mistake that will cause her to be expelled from the theater and sent back to her parent’s house.

The book has from the beginning a way of presenting the feminine sexual liberation as seen by the 20 years old girl and perhaps shows the way feminism was seen before and after the war. Even after falling in disgrace, the main character is still not taking full responsibility for her actions and doesn’t understand the harm she has caused up until the end when she is faced with the outcome.

I will not spoil the ending of the book, but I do want to say that it is not what you’ve expected. It will bring into light a different life path than you normally would have seen for that period and let’s face it, who doesn’t like to be taken back in time to a way different than now New York City. Perhaps I love this book even more, because of this place, but I do want to recommend you read it. I do hope they will make a movie out of it as well, so fingers crossed.

Book review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Ever since Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley starred in the miniseries made after the Big Little Lies book, I keep seeing movie flashes and heard a lot of good impressions about the storyline. Having a 10hour flight I decided to have a pick at the series and 3 episodes later I decided that I really love it so I must first read the book. On the way back from the US I bought the book from the airport and by the time I got home to Romania I was already halfway through it.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The book revolves around the life of 3 mothers Jane, Madeline and Celeste, all with kids at about the same age that frequent to the same school. Jane is new to the town, is a single mother and is burden by the secret of her son’s father, who abused her during a one night stand. On the way to the first day of school, she meets Madeline, an energetic and bold person that has trouble with her older daughter who starts to be more close to her father, the ex-husband that left Madeline to raise her alone. Madeline introduces Jane to her other friend Celeste, a gorgeous ex-lawyer that has a secret of her own, her rich husband abuses and beats her.

From the beginning of the book, at every chapter, there is a short interview made by the police, because of a murder that happened in the Trivia night that the school hosted.  As we read through the book we keep approaching the Trivia night of the murder.

From the first day of school Ziggy, the son of Jane is accused of bullying another girl. This leads to a war between the parents and divides them into a group that wants to expel Ziggy and one that wants to protect the gentile kid, that seems unable to hurt anyone. Jane becomes more and more terrified that her son might resemble his father and be cruel due to his genes.

Celeste’s husband Perry, becomes more and more aggressive so she decides to seek help from a therapist and soon after rents an apartment for herself and her twin sons. Madeline’s daughter decides to go live with her father and his new hippy wife Bonnie. After a few weeks, Madeline finds out that her daughter is auctioning her virginity online to raise money and awareness for child sexual abuse.

As the friendship of the 3 women becomes closer, Jane confesses her secret to Madeline and Celeste who search for the name Saxon Banks online and find out that it is Celeste’s husband’s cousin that is the father of Ziggy.

Jane manages to trick Ziggy into confessing who is the bully and finds out that is one of Celeste’s twins, Max that is mirroring his father’s behavior. Celeste finds that her son is the bully at the same time when her other kid tells her. She apologies to Jane and tells her that she will talk to the school to stop the petition for having Ziggy removed from school.

At the Trivia night, Perry finds out about the apartment that Celeste rented and the fact that she wants to leave him. Even if the tensions between them are high they still go to the party where he hits Celeste in front of all her friends. At the same time, Jane recognizes Perry as Ziggy’s father. He shows no remorse for abusing her and even tries to hit Celeste again when she says that will separate. This is when Bonnie, who lived with an abusive father, pushes Perry off the balcony to his death. The women that saw the scene wanted to protect Bonnie and decide not to tell the police, but she ends up confessing and receiving 200 hours of community service.

At the end of the book, we learn that Celeste opens a law firm and starts a trust fund for Ziggy. Also, she starts talking about the abuse and the fact that this can happen to anyone.

Liane’s book talks about the struggle modern women face and the importance of the feminist movement. I consider this book and/or movie a mandatory selection for anyone who is part of this movement, it is important to understand that the equality between sexes is a right that all women should have and that there is no excuse for abuse.

After I was done with the book, I also finished the miniseries that keep most of the storyline from the book although there were a couple of alterations. The choice of actors couldn’t have been better and the 3 women’s story will make you want to push Parry off the balcony too. Truth be told the ending is a different one in the film, yet this means that it will be a second part that I am more than waiting to see.