Chocolate-covered strawberries. Mini chocolate lava cakes. Luscious, mouth-watering desserts are decadent and not recommended for everyday indulgences, much to the chagrin of most people.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls is akin to a Shari’s Berries delivery accompanied by two bottles of red and When Harry Met Sally on DVD. It was the PERFECT read for a cross-country flight, and I finished it in a single day. I hadn’t intended to power through it, either. It wasn’t a struggle. It was such an enjoyable read that I didn’t want to put it down in order to watch a TV show or listen to music… I just marinated in the story, reveling in the exploits of young Vivian at the Lily Playhouse, soaking up all that 1940s New York City had to offer.
After getting kicked out of Vassar, Vivian is sent by her disgusted parents to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns and operates a run-down theatre in NYC. She is 19 years old and quite naive, but she fits in to the makeshift family of actors, actresses, and showgirls that call the Lily their home.
Vivian’s proclivity for sewing gives her an “in,” and she becomes an asset to the cast of characters that assemble at the Lily. There’s a woeful playwright, a songwriter whose star is too bright for the Lily, a handful of wannabe actors as well as SHOWGIRLS. Vivian is fascinated by the worldly showgirls, and she quickly befriends them and takes up their fast-paced lifestyle of nightclubs, alcohol, and chasing men.
Not unexpectedly, our Vivian has many learning experiences while living and working at the Lily. I don’t want to spoil the book, but what surprised me was the depth with which I felt her pain through an otherwise frothy read. She tells her tale as an old woman who has lived an unpredictable, nontraditional life, and that was the only part of City of Girls that I wasn’t crazy about — how she has written it all to a young woman named Angela, who asked Vivian in a letter to explain her relationship with Angela’s father. Some of the subject matter and the level of detail is tough to imagine writing to a young woman who is practically a stranger. But anyway.
My best advice: Run a bubble bath, pour a glass of wine, leave the bottle by the tub and indulge yourself by reading City of Girls. That Liz Gilbert is fearless, and I’m so glad she wrote this book.