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City of Girls

A Novel
Written by: Elizabeth Gilbert
Narrated by: Blair Brown
Length: 15 hrs and 8 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (529 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An Instant New York Times Best Seller!

From the number-one best-selling author of Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don't have to be a good girl to be a good person.

"A spellbinding novel about love, freedom, and finding your own happiness." (PopSugar)

"Intimate and richly sensual, razzle-dazzle with a hint of danger." (USA Today)

"Pairs well with a cocktail...or two." (TheSkimm)

"Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are." 

Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love. 

In 1940, 19-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 89 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. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time", she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

©2019 Elizabeth Gilbert (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Blair Brown delivers a superb narration of Elizabeth Gilbert's novel, which features the recollections of a 95-year-old New York seamstress who came of age during WWII. Brown's straightforward, charming depiction illuminates the vivacious young woman the wistful elderly narrator remembers, and her conversational pacing creates vibrant pictures for the listener." (AudioFile Magazine)

"With all the conversations about sexual consent, it's risen up around the #MeToo movement... This author doesn't want us to forget there's also such a thing as female desire, the main character wants to have sex and she's not shy about hunting for it." (Whoopi Goldberg, The View "Ladies Get Lit Summer Reads 2019'") 

"Delightful…Terrific characters, gorgeous clothing, great one-liners, convincing wartime atmosphere, and excellent descriptions of sex…Don't miss out on her wonderful novels any longer." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

"Gilbert takes us to New York City in the glamorous 1940s, where the sex was plentiful and showgirls just wanted to have fun." (Oprahmag.com) 

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

Okay

This book was pretty okay to listen to. Sometimes the repetition of a point said 10 different ways was annoying but overall the story was good and the lady reading the book was amazing at keeping all the characters voices straight. Not sure I am the biggest fan of it being written like letter to someone, but the story was original. Overall I would recommend.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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wonderful!

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. such an amazing story and so well told. thank-you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Time well spent

This was a lovely distraction and journey to another time and place. The story read beautifully as Gilbert does, and the reading was excellent. Highly recommend as a worthy distraction.

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Very engaging!

I was right there with Vivian for every moment. The descriptions of her experiences were so well developed that I could see, hear, and feel every detail.

On a slightly negative note, I found the sarcastic tone of the narrator very annoying. After 5 or 6 chapters I got used to her, however.

This was truly a great read.

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Grew on me - great book

For the first few chapters of this book, I was wondering why I had started listening to it. It felt irrelevant, overly sexual, and I hadn't yet started to care about the characters. Some books take you slowly into their grasps. I was listening to the audiobook and I must say Blair Brown was incredible. She must be one of the best narrators out there - impeccable consistency of accents and voices, and she really brought the story alive.
So I continued, and sure enough, became fully swept into the characters and the story, and the challenges of the era. I've seen other reviews say the end fizzled out, and yet I found the dialogue and messages so powerful, I listened to some of the chapters twice.
If you have any negative projections upon "promiscuous women" then this book will either open your mind, or shut you right down. Chapter 31 was the most impactful chapter there was. A powerful message of empowerment for everyone, no matter what others think of you. If there are people out there who still think the number of sexual partners a woman has determines whether she is "good" or "bad", then I hope this book can help you expand your world view, even if just a little.

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Building In Excellence as Story Progresses

Elizabeth Gilbert and Blair Brown form a brilliant duo with Gilbert superbly creating the text, followed by Brown's exquisite interpretation of Gilbert's words!

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Good Storytelling

To be honest this wasn't really a book I was that interested in, but I love Elizabeth Gilbert so decided to give it a go. Took a few chapters to really get into and I almost gave it up. But the writing saves a lukewarm story, in my opinion, and the narrator brings a fun element of performance. I'm glad i listened to the book on audible, rather than reading it because i don't think i would have enjoyed it as much. The book definitely picks up in the middle half and pulls together a rather beautiful and compelling tale. All in all it was worthwhile.

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Good to Pass Time

I didn't mind this book, although it was not my favourite. It was nice to put on while I did things around the house. I guess my only issue was it was a very long build up to such a small reveal. I did enjoy hearing a story set in New York in the 1940's. There isn't much to say about it, other than it was ok.

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good narrator, but it's a slow story

I struggled to finished this book, but felt I had to based on the time I had already committed to listening to it. I felt like the story was quite boring at times, and way too drawn out. I feel like it could have been a third shorter and achieved the same point. The book overall was underwhelming, at times predictable, but did wrap up all the loose ends of the story.

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  • Amy
  • 2019-11-05

outstanding

the performance was AMAZING. I'd listen to it over again just for the narrative. Listen to this book!

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  • Amy L. Jones
  • 2019-06-24

I wanted so badly to to like it...

The performance by Blair Brown was stellar.
I wanted badly to like this story, to enjoy it and let it swallow me up like a really great audiobook can do. I have loved other Liz Gilbert books in this way - The Signature of All Things is one of my all-time favorites, for example, and of course everyone adored Eat Pray Love. However, City of Girls left something to be desired. I think, maybe, it could have been two separate stories, instead of this long and drawn out, disjointed one. In any case, I won’t stop reading your books, Liz. Anxiously awaiting whatever’s next.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Anita Kristensen
  • 2019-06-08

A strong story

I don't give my devotion easily; in fact, I'm probably quite a picky reader. So it thrills me to no end to once again bestow the highest mark to Liz Gilbert for one of her books: City of Girls. I loved it! It made me cringe, and it made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me want to move to New York City in the 1940s :) I'm so glad I got to go on this journey Liz, just like I loved the journey of The Signature of All Things.
And as Liz would say:
Onwards <3

91 of 100 people found this review helpful

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  • Beth Anderson
  • 2019-06-14

Binge Worthy

I’m newer to Audible and this was my first binge book. Gilbert writes the book as a first person narrative so it was wonderful to “hear” the protagonist rather than just read her words. I personally loved all the phases of the book for different reasons. Some parts were juicy, some harrowing, and some just beautiful. There are many one liners I rewound to hear and chuckle a few times. I listened to chapter 31 two times since finishing the book because I found the words and message to be profound.

It is a great summer read that gave me many new and multi dimensional characters to think about. Well done and satisfying!

41 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • JJ
  • 2019-07-10

A Bestseller?? Not sure why...

I want to preface this review by pointing out I have listened to 100+ Audible books but this is the first time I have felt compelled to write a review. I am so frustrated by how badly the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, dropped the ball that I cannot let it go without comment.
The first half of this book was entertaining enough...I found myself looking for excuses to drive around in my car so I could listen to another chapter. It felt like Gilbert was building up to something big and exciting so I was eager to get to that part...but the story essentially ends about halfway through with the narrator, Vivian, blathering on about...well...HERSELF for the remainder of the book. Gilbert manages to introduce a cast of fascinating supporting characters, yet for some inexplicable reason they are each abruptly dropped from the storyline never to return. In fact, the only person we are stuck with the entire time is Vivian, and I didn’t even find her to be interesting, relatable, or even likable. I feel like I started with one book and halfway through someone swapped it out with another...that’s how different the first and second halves of the story felt to me. If I had to choose, I would rather read something that starts slow and uninteresting but builds and ends in a way that makes me FEEL something! Experiencing that in reverse (feeling excited early on but then feeling so bored I can barely finish) has been unsatisfying, to say the least.
I have about an hour left and only plan to finish it because I’m so close to the end, and not at all because I’m interested in what will happen (my prediction: nothing noteworthy). However, if I find I am wrong and the author manages to somehow redeem herself in the final chapters (unlikely) I promise to update this review accordingly...I won’t hold my breath. This one is all flowery, descriptive writing and no plot to grab onto.
On another note I did enjoy the narrator, Blair; her accents were awful but she seemed to embody the essence of Vivian in her performance. It was my first time listening to her and I would listen to her again, ideally in something not involving Brooklyn accents. ;-) This was also my first Elizabeth Gilbert novel and I’m not as confident I would give her a second chance after this experience.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-06-18

The last two hours was interesting

I’m a Gilbert fan however this was my least favorite book she’s written. Some of the most interesting people in the book were dropped and we are left with a self absorbed self important protagonist. Once Frank came into the story it became interesting and thoughtful. However that was only the last two hours. I felt the best part of the story was rushed to a unsatisfying end.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Megan
  • 2019-07-20

Beautifully written, drawn out and tedious story

I loved this book at first. The descriptions of New York are beautiful. However, The plot doesn’t seem to go very many places. It wanders around and there are some events here and there, but it’s really just a biography of this woman’s life. There is no huge mystery, there is no huge climax or turning point in the story… I ended up listening to it two times speed just to get through the rest.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Ana Del Valle Brown
  • 2019-06-13

Two books

First half is awesome. I felt like I was living vicariously through the main character in this 1940s experience.
Second half felt like a whole separate novel. Sullen.
The audible performance was excellent.

41 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • Shannon Childers
  • 2019-06-30

There wasn’t a clear storyline...

I was intrigued by the characters and the character development but I just couldn’t find a real point to the story. It also felt segmented into two parts. They almost felt like unrelated stories. I couldn’t finish it.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Gilma M. Salazar
  • 2019-06-07

Reader is amazing!

Gilbert did it again, start very light and funny and move to deeper levels of pure human behaviors, yes a lot sex!. Love it, Vivian is a carácter that you will love and know to the bone.

48 of 55 people found this review helpful

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  • Cate P
  • 2019-07-04

A Lot of Foam - No Beer!

I have to admit that I'm only about an two hours into this and will probably return it. It's clear that Elizabeth Gilbert can write beautiful descriptive prose and wily conversation but this book seems to be going nowhere plot-wise. The characters are trite, boring and to my mind, unlikeable. Their connection to something resembling a plot is thin. I'm sad to be writing this as I loved "The Signature of All Things", but Gilbert has missed the mark for me this time.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2019-08-07

Excellent!

I've really enjoyed this novel due to the charming characters, time and writing way. To be read!

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  • Aude
  • 2019-07-11

Sensible, émouvant, captivant

Magnifique roman. Les personnages sont vrais, attachants, l’histoire de Vivian Morris est bien construite, drôle, rude et triste. On y parle de résilience, de sororité, de tolérance et de de la vie dont les coups n’épargnent personne mais qui continue et peut redevenir belle. Elisabeth Gilbert a, à nouveau, écrit un livre qui fait du bien.