Primary Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Published: 4 Jun 2019 by Riverhead
Page count: 470
My Format: Audiobook via Overdrive
Cover: The out-of-focus feathers bother my eyes.
Would I recommend it: Probably not
Commission Link: Buy on Amazon
My rating: ★★☆☆☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it.
I honestly picked this book to read next since it was a new release and the audiobook was available immediately on Overdrive. Here are my pros and cons for City of Girls:
- The writing style was conversational and easy to read; however, I wish the story had been edited down a bit (see Con #1 below).
- The characterizations were decent. To me, at least initially, the story really highlighted how peer pressure and the company you keep can bring you down. It irritated me a tad that Vivian didn’t always think for herself but instead did what the showgirls did or what she thought was expected of her to fit in, even if it was to her detriment.
- Frank was the best character in the book hands down. He was also the most real and the most honest.
- The historical detail was my favorite thing about the book. The time period, the clothing, the relationships, and the theatre really came to life.
- I thought the book focused too much on immorality and immodesty, but I was glad to see that Vivian at least acknowledged that some of her actions in her youth were stupid and reckless. She even referred to her past as “perverse” at one point.
- Too long by about 150-200 pages. There was some serious overwriting. The length and sometimes leisurely pace had me wishing I could push the story along at times. Then the ending was super rushed and suddenly the book was over. Weird pacing overall.
- The premise of this story is that the entire book is a written response to a woman named Angela asking about Vivian’s relationship with her father. I’m supposed to believe this 470 page story is a written response to a letter? Really? Come on… that is pushing it a bit. Apparently I’m also supposed to believe that Vivian would include in this “letter” a detailed description of how she lost her virginity, which had nothing at all to do with Angela’s father in any way, shape, or form. Seriously? That makes no sense!!!! The whole premise of the “letter” did not work for me.
- I wish the focus in the first half of the book would have been more on Vivian’s value outside of her “exploits”. I got a little tired of the sex, sex, sex. I got tired of the references to sex throughout the entire book if I’m honest. It is like Vivian only valued her life based on how much sex she had. She thought her exploits made her interesting. That is incredibly sad in my opinion.
- I almost laughed out loud at Vivian’s declaration that her generation was the first to usher in wanton sex, homosexuality and other “revolutionary” ideas. Amazingly ignorant statement.
- This was two separate books – not one. I think I would have enjoyed the book a bit more if the author had picked one story or the other (Vivian’s early life, or her later life/relationship with Frank) and not tried to meld the two.
- I felt like the book was trying way too hard to justify bad behavior and terrible decisions.
- I thought Vivian was a hypocrite.
- While I enjoyed meeting Frank, the entire last half of the book was a dud for me.
I’m going to be brutally honest here. I think this book was a weird, feminist manifesto that glorified and put value on wanton sex and perverse (Vivian’s word in the book) behavior. Yes, there were moments in the book that were good, I fully admit that, but overall the book left a bad taste in my mouth. The book has a Goodreads rating of 4.13 at the time of this post so my opinion seems to be in the minority again. And that is a little bit sad to me, because I hope women/girls out there don’t think their value is determined by the number of their sexual partners/exploits.
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