City of Girls

Hi Papyrus and Peppermint readers!

Thanks for joining me :). I hope you’re well and happy and enjoying the summer in any way you can!

The last fortnight has been very busy for me – firstly we are preparing to move one house into another so there’s lots of sorting and charity bags and visits to the recycling centre. The buyer wants to be in very very quickly so we’ve had to get our skates on sifting through belongings, and get to Ikea for more storage!

Secondly I’ve been super fortunate enough to have been asked to go back to work! It’s still working from home and just 3 days a week for now, but honestly it’s been a) so good to get back and speak to my colleagues and get to work on solving problems again but b) exhausting. Firstly my computer security had gone into overdrive because I hadn’t used it for 3 months so it wouldn’t let me into anything (cue lots of IT Support) and then so much has changed and my unread email count was eye watering. It was almost like starting a new job, but where you already have a mountain of work on day one!

Today I’m unfortunately not feeling too great and I have had about 6 hours sleep before I abandoned hope and decided to retreat to the couch. However, it means I’ve got approximately one hour before the other half decides to slink downstairs beside me. So, what better time to share with you one of my most favourite reads of late, and one which was a Rare birds book subscription pick. If you’re a follower on my instagram you’ll have seen my posts and stories whenever its book mail time of the month, these arrive wrapped so intricately and they come with a gorgeous book mark each time. The books are also always written by female authors and published within the past year. I love this book club (and no, i’m not on commission!)!

CITY OF GIRLS, BY ELIZABETH GILBERT

Now if the author name ‘Elizabeth Gilbert’ is ringing a bell in your head and you can’t think why, then you’ll definitely know her as the author of memoir ‘Eat Pray Love’. I had not read any of her books up to this point (gasp), so when this delight dropped through the post box I was super excited to get stuck in. Here’s the synopsis:

New York, 1940.

Young, glamorous and inseparable, Vivian and Celia are chasing trouble from one end of the city to the other. But there is risk in all this play – that’s what makes it so fun, and so dangerous. Sometimes, the world may feel like it’s ending, but for Vivian and Celia, life is just beginning.

Well. When I heard that this book would be set in 1940’s New York amongst glitz and glamour, I was clicking ‘CHOOSE!!’ as fast as I could on the book club website. I am obsessed with New York and always have been. From the days of watching Home Alone as a Kid, to Sex and the City as a Teenager turned Woman, I’ve always found an excitement in the city. I’ve been 3 times and each time I find something truly new and magical to discover. My favourite part however is what you find off the beaten path, away from the tourist hotspots – the magic that real New Yorkers know about and love. Therefore anything set in New York is fascinating to me but I’m always on the lookout for a clue for a new place to discover and enjoy. Obviously the 1940s time period is an interesting point in time, what with war looming and different attitudes towards women and their roles beginning to change.

So as you may have gathered from the synopsis, this ‘trouble’ the girls are chasing is men, lots and lots of men. The idea behind City of Girls is that Gilbert wanted to write a book about a woman who enjoys sex but who’s life isn’t ruined or defined by it. Our protagonist, Vivian begins the story in 2010 with the receipt of a letter from a woman called ‘Angela’, who’s parents have now since passed, asking Vivian ‘what she was’ to Angela’s father. The story that precedes is an explanation to Angela of exactly what happened in the 1940s and how she came to know her Father.

The opening line of the first chapter had me chuckling right away:

“In the summer of 1940, when I was nineteen years old and an idiot, my parents sent me to live with my Aunt Peg, who owned a theatre company in New York City.”

City of Girls

I loved the dry wit in this opening line and this continues throughout the book, much to my joy. I like books that can make me laugh as well as shock, excite and move me. This is one of those books. From here we are introduced to Vivian’s new life in the world of theatre and hedonism in New York City.

What I found that I loved most about the book was the descriptions of characters and the places. They were exciting and each character was different and brought a different value in every way. No two characters blurred into one another which so often happens in stories with lots of them, and every character appeared to have purpose and a role to play in Vivian’s story. This book reminded me of Sex and the City in many ways – to fans of the show I’ll say that in my eyes, Vivian began as a Charlotte, became a Carrie and swiftly a Samantha.

The story is much deeper than that though, it’s actually a story of love. It contains a whole wide variety of glamorous themes such as theatre shows, famous actresses and beautiful clothing, but also not so glamorous elements including alcoholism, drug abuse, war, and betrayal.

As readers we read the story as Angela, yet at the same time as a fly on the wall. I adored the pacing for the first 75% of the book and was reading 100 pages a time eager to know where it was taking us- note that this is a LONG book! I felt that the story was well ‘padded out’, its rounded and whole.

There were moments were I laughed out loud and moments where I gasped and was appalled. I truly got well into the swing of 1940s glitter and glamour in hedonistic NYC, and could picture each scene in my mind, I felt that the writing was truly terrific. I loved the feminist messages in the pages, both with Aunt Peg and Olive (Theatre owners) and with Vivian and Celia’s ‘fun and freedom’ attitude towards life.

There is a moment with Vivian’s brother Walter and a character called Frank which was poignant – it just goes to prove how much that type of unacceptable double standard language can have on a person. But it also shows Vivian’s strength of character in the pages that follow.

“…at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” 

City of Girls

Unfortunately however, I found the last few pages a bit of a drag after all the excitement in the first 3/4 of the book. I completely understand that Vivian is older at this point and that life has changed dramatically, but I just wasnt so eager to know the characters that became so important to the end of the tale and to Angela as I was with the earlier characters.

I felt that a lot of characters became quickly forgotten about, including important ones like Vivian’s parents! There was no mention about what happened to them and nothing mentioned about returning for Christmas or Birthdays etc to see them which was a bit odd – in this way they were very much side characters.

This would be my main criticism of the book; characters who were supposed to be equally important on Vivian at different stages of her life seemed to hold different weight – Celia took up most of the early part of the story but those in the later stages had very little presence.

CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5

If you, or someone you know is looking for a 1940s tale a la Sex and the City meets Broadway, then this may be the very book for you. It’s a long book but it’s worth sticking with; it is humorous yet shocking and gives the reader a complete sense of escapism. It’s one to pick up on a weekend and definitely a great book discussion book.

My reason for 4 stars rather than 5 is down to the last 25% of the book; I just didn’t gel with older Vivian’s life nor the characters within it, the pacing was too slow and I wanted to know more about Angela.

All in all however, one of the most solid reads that I’ve read of this genre in quite some time.

Warning: Be prepared for uncomfortable moments, female shaming and sex scenes.

Where to Buy:

Hardback:

Book Depository: £14.07

Paperback:

Wordery: £8.63

Kindle: £4.28

WASHED DOWN WITH

One of my favourite Teas ever! This Chinese green tea has been rolled into pearls with tiny jasmine flowers making it an aromatic, light, yet floral tea. It’s my go to for a delicate, fresh clean flavour. It’s not the cheapest of the teapigs bunch, but its well worth it in my opinion! You can sample two teabags for £1.75 direct at teapigs.co.uk

So lovely readers, enjoy your day, look up this book if it interests you, and let me know if you buy it or if you have bought it, what you think!

As always you can catch me on IG and FB @papyrusandpeppermint so please give a follow, a like and get in touch!

Until the next Chapter,

Emma

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