Wednesday, July 31, 2019

More vacation reads :)

I have to admit I was hesitant about buying "City of Girls," the new novel by Elizabeth Gilbert (of "Eat Pray Love" fame).  I thought I could probably wait for the paperback. I also tend to be a bit leery about jumping onto bandwagons, and this book was getting a lot of buzz.

But then the local megabookstore priced it at $25 (which is not much more than the paperback would cost, especially when you factor in my 10% iRewards card discount).  And then it was chosen as the July selection for the Gateway Women private community's book club. I bought the book, and brought it with me to my parents' house to read while on vacation.

My BCR-related books (see previous post) took a little longer to read than I had anticipated. I had four days to get through "City of Girls"'s 470 pages before our GW book club discussion on Saturday afternoon. I'm a fairly fast reader, especially when I'm enjoying a book, and have a lot of uninterrupted time.  But staying with my aging parents, my time is not always my own. And to be honest, while I thought  the book was incredibly well written right from the start -- the dialogue is fabulous, the characters are brilliantly drawn & the descriptions of New York City theatre life in the 1940s are cinematically vivid -- it took a while for the story to really grab me.

I kept waiting for something dramatic to HAPPEN (as promised in the cover flap copy) -- which it eventually does, about halfway through the book. From there on in, things picked up, and so did the speed at which I tore through the pages. I finished the book on Friday afternoon. 

"City of Girls" is the story of Vivian Morris, a Vassar dropout who goes to stay with her Aunt Peg in New York.  Peg is the owner/operator of the rundown Lily Playhouse in midtown Manhattan, where Vivian puts her skills as a seamstress to use during the day and parties with the showgirls after the evening's performance, long into the night. Then the war intervenes, as well as a scandal that threatens everything Vivian has loved and worked for.

It takes a while to answer the central question that's posed in the book's beginning -- there's a lot of preamble to get through first! -- but the story builds to an ending that had me feeling both warm & a bit teary.

Childlessness is not a major theme here, but (mild spoiler alert)  the heroine is single & childless -- and happily so (as is Gilbert), which is one reason why it was selected for our GW book club (rule #1:  no miracle babies!). I loved seeing Vivian come into her own, defy the conventions of the time, and build a satisfying career and life for herself.

A solid four stars on Goodreads.

(Our GW book club discussion on Saturday wound up being just me & Jody Day, who also loved the book.  Guess summer is a busy time, even when you don't have kids (contrary to some opinions)!)

*** *** ***

I'm still thinking about "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng, which I read for my library book club a few months ago -- and since then, I've been eyeing Ng's first book, Everything I Never Told You. I picked up a paperback copy & took it on vacation with me, starting it near the end of our stay with my parents & finishing it on the plane ride home.

I'm going to be thinking about this one for a long time too. 

Like "Little Fires," "Everything I Never Told You" opens  with a dramatic scene (a house burning down/a dead girl) and then takes us back through the complex layers of one family's story, revealing what happened and why.

Lydia Lee was the favourite child, the (seemingly) perfect daughter -- and now she's dead, her body fished out of a pond near the family's Ohio home in the mid-1970s.  How did she get there?

Her Chinese-born father, James, hoped that Lydia would be the popular kid he never was. Her American mother, Marilyn, who dropped out of college for marriage & motherhood, hoped Lydia would be the doctor she never got to be. Meanwhile, her older brother, Nathan, struggles to reconcile his love & grief for his sister with his resentment of how his parents' focus on Lydia has overshadowed his own achievements and dreams of Harvard and NASA. And little sister Hannah, quiet and overlooked/ignored by the other family members, has secrets of her own she's been keeping...

This is a story about family and family secrets, and how well we know each other (or don't).  It's about trying & failing to living up to expectations (our own & others'), fitting in & being different, and how our actions & choices can reverberate through years & generations in completely unexpected and unanticipated (and unknowable) ways.

Ng is an amazing writer.  I look forward to reading whatever comes next from her!

Four stars on Goodreads. Probably 4.5, if I could give half stars.

These were books #27 & #28 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 117%!!! of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently four books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018.  :) 


  1. I just checked my library book club website to see if the book for September has been announced yet. Guess what? It's "Everything I Never Told You," lol. So on the one hand, that's one less book for the Goodreads Challenge total, but on the other hand, one less book I have to worry about reading. The October selection is Never Let Me Go, which I read years ago for the Stirrup Queen's Barren Bitches Book Club... not sure I will do a complete re-read, but I'll need to refresh my memory on that one...

  2. Oooh, Everything I Never Told You is one of my favorites. So interesting how it explores how parents put their own stuff on their children. City of Girls sounds good, I'll have to snag it and be patient. I love Elizabeth Gilbert but I hated Eat Pray Love. I'll give it a shot!