NEW BOOKS: Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls.
NEW BOOKS: Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls.

New York is a City of Girls

ELIZABETH Gilbert tells the story of summer 1940. Her City of Girls heroine is 19-year-old Vivian Morris who has arrived in New York with a suitcase and sewing machine.

She's left behind her despairing parents.

Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg's charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre.

There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses.

Exiled in New York is no exile at all. Here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop.

When the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company's most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in her wake.

But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

'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,' Vivian confides.

And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her; women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of The Signature of All Things and Eat Pray Love, which sold over 15 million copies.

Published by Bloomsbury. RRP$39.99.