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.

Traveling: New York, the City that Never Sleeps

I have been holding this article for a while since the Big Apple is a journey I took almost 7 years ago, but this is so worth mentioning that I couldn’t hold myself not talking about one of the most magnificent cities in the world: New York. Songs and books have been written about it, movies have been inspired by this place, models have been discovered here, Audrey Hepburn had a breakfast at Tiffany’s, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, if you have the chance don’t ever miss the opportunity of visiting the city that never sleeps.

 

Ever since I was able to spell America, I have dreamed about going to New York, to see where all of these amazing stories are written, where people go to make a career, where writers sit on coffee shops and lay down the words for the best seller books. So when the opportunity presented itself I sign off to the Work And Travel program, had a hell of a summer, but ended it with 5 days in New York. A dream come true, in the end, it was so worth it.

Even now after 7 years and after traveling to many countries I still haven’t seen anything like it, it has a rhythm of its own, a beat that never stops, a mixture of people that make it so diverse. You could never get bored here, there is so much going on, that you need 2 lives to do it all. I cannot put a finger on what is making this city so amazing, but what I can tell you is that you could wander around the streets and no 2 will be the same. The relaxation from the Central Park is the opposite of the hustle you will see on the Wall Street at rush hour. Central Square makes it look like it is night even during the day when the tall building is filled with the lights of the commercials.

 

There are thousands of people on the streets at any hour of the day, tourists and locals all fight for a tiny space in the city streets. Cars that stay still for hours, honking like crazy, people wearing suits on bicycles, people running to get to work or to get the last bus home. Also, if you will go under-earth to the metro, you will see a new world altogether, the shiny city shows you the not so nice face, with poor people, beggars and lots of rats, but somehow this only adds to the magnitude of this megalopolis.

If you ever had contact with the outside world, you definitely saw the iconic pictures of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. So those should definitely be on your list for touristic things to do if you haven’t already. To those add a mandatory coffee in Central Park, a trip to China Town, a walk on Central Square, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, a visit to Madame Tussauds and the American Museum of National History. If you want to visit more than 2 paid attractions, you should think about purchasing the New York City Pass. Also if you stay for a few days, the Big Bus is also a mandatory experience, it is a big city and it is hard to cover on foot and you should definitely see it both by day and by night.

 

I left New York brokenhearted for staying so little, but I promise myself that I will return to it and that next time I will stay longer. One of the things I want to add to my list is a show on Broadway, I didn’t add to the list since I cannot give a recommendation, but for me, it would be an amazing experience. Until next time, I am once again going through the photos I took then and dreaming of a future visit. See you soon New York!

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