Book tip: "City of Girls" by Elizabeth Gilbert

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City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert

Alma Whittaker, the heroine of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful 2013 novel “The Signature of All Things,” would probably roll her eyes at the main character in Gilbert’s latest book, “City of Girls.” Whittaker was a woman of substance; Vivian begins “City of Girls” as a self-absorbed and frivolous 19-year-old, traipsing through the early 1940s and feels fabulously free. At age 19, Vivian moves to New York City and lives with her colorful aunt, who runs a ramshackle, none-too-successful theater. Things are a riot, with Vivian on endless sexual adventures, until she is caught in a gossip-page scandal and is sent back to her confining hometown. Over time, Vivian develops more wisdom and self-knowledge, as she cycles through various life stages — putting on shows in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII, opening an atelier, developing a deep friendship with a man physically and psychologically damaged in the war. “City of Girls,” though, feels as shallow as Vivian’s earlier iteration. Gilbert says she wanted this novel to "go down like a champagne cocktail, light and crisp and fun." Instead, it's flat.




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