*Please forgive the lengthy review. Got carried away.^^*
A delightful, sensational read but also surprisingly touching that by the last quarter of the book, I’ve become a blubbering mess. This is a very enjoyable, entertaining, educative, eye-opening and emotional historical fiction.
Vivian, now an old lady, writes to Angela to explain what her relationship was to Angela’s father and so she starts with the very beginning, with her exploits as a 19-year old girl who was then only interested about fashion and more trivial things that she abandoned her college education and went to New York to stay with her Aunt Peg who owns Lily Playhouse.
Vivian’s self-deprecating humor and honesty make her a very entertaining narrator. Her passion and exceptional talent in sewing and tailoring as well as her extraordinary eye for beauty are magnets to the reader’s aesthetics sensibilities. The narrative is so easy to read. There are 450 + pages but I couldn’t allow myself to miss a single word. In fact, even though Vivian is already elaborating about her sexual conquests, they don’t feel raunchy at all, they’re actually comically irreverent.
Beauty, show girls, fashion, glamour, style, comical musical stage plays, the art of dressmaking and building costumes- these are what make up the first half of the plot and I am not in the slightest bit a fashionable person but even I was enamored at everything that I was reading.
Perhaps it’s because of Vivian’s uniquely dynamic development as a character which took an absolute 360-degree turn but it’s also specifically because of the historical backdrop of the plot which is New York from 1940 till 2010. Not only did I get to see Vivian impressively mature and grow through the years, but I was also able to picture New York City in its post-world war years, including its crucial as well as formative period, even the notable and eventful “flower-power” years through Vivian’s eyes and it honestly was an incredible reading experience.
Written with exquisite attention to detail and elaborate research, the novel developed into a larger than life story filled with so much heart, humor, and honesty and graced with characters so flawed and yet so real, laced with a philosophical reminder that people are made up of both good things and bad, that we go through awful life circumstances whether they’re self-inflicted or not but those are not the things that define us. They’re not what indicate the inherent goodness in a person and as Vivian finally reaches an all-encompassing acceptance of the flawed nature of human beings, she learns to accept herself and starts to realize that she doesn’t have to be a good girl to be a good person and a loyal friend, she’s pretty much the perfect symbol of New York itself.
Without a doubt, City of Girls, is one of the best books I’ve read this year.