“When women are gathered together with no men around, they don’t have to be anything in particular; they can just be.”
Feminism? Consensual, safe sex? Racial acceptance? All in the 1940’s? It doesn’t seem possible, but you’ll find these issues in Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, City of Girls. The entire story is Vivian Morris reflecting upon her life. She explains some of the choices she made as a young woman through a ninety something year old who has gained immeasurable wisdom from which we could all benefit.
The story is mostly set in New York City during World War II in Vivian’s Aunt Peg’s theater. Viv’s job is sewing costumes for the show girls, and not just any costumes, exquisite ones! She has a gift for taking old clothes, fabric, trims and creating gorgeous clothes. The girls/women we meet are Aunt Peg, Olive, Celia, Edna Parker Watson (the star of “City of Girls”), Marjorie, and Angela. The language Gilbert uses to describe the meaningful friendships between the girls and Vivian is exquisite. So much so, I felt like I knew them as friends too. Men are around, but only in the background.
This is a story about the past, but the message is a vital one for women today. When will we quit degrading ourselves? When will we accept who we are without the need for apologizing to anyone? When will we be kind to ourselves? When will we throw down our shame? When will we truly be free?
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Blaire Brown. She deserves high praise for her performance! Elizabeth Gilbert has proven once again what a badass author she is! Hands down, this was a five star book for me!
A side note: Vivian’s talent for sewing reminded me of my dear grandmother, who was also a gifted seamstress of women’s clothes. Throughout the story I could picture Grandma, who was also an independent woman, sitting at her sewing machine. This made the book even more enjoyable for me.
HOW CAN I LIVE MORE INTENSELY AFTER READING CITYOF GIRLS?
I’ll accept myself, the women I know, and the women I’ve yet to meet. I’ll not be judgmental, and I’ll frequently remind myself, we’re all doing the best we can.
Above is my seamstress grandmother I referenced in this review.
After posting my review on Instagram, I received this message from my 87 year old mother: “I love the reference to Grandma in your review. You know that I was born after their divorce, and Mother was in demand to take apart the clothes of politicians’ wives and remake them into new ones. That is how she supported the two of us. Depression stories.”