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In this audiobook review, we explore the captivating novel, “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Set against the backdrop of New York City in the 1940s, this novel takes readers on a journey of self-discovery and the pursuit of personal happiness.

Key Takeaways

  • “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert is a vibrant novel that explores themes of love and self-discovery.
  • The audiobook narration effectively brings the story to life and enhances the overall experience for listeners.
  • The immersive setting of New York City in the 1940s adds to the atmospheric elements and mood of the story.
  • The character development in “City of Girls” is notable, with the main characters evolving throughout the story and impacting the narrative.
  • Overall, “City of Girls” is a worthwhile listen for fans of Elizabeth Gilbert and those new to her work.

Overview of “City of Girls”

If you are looking for a novel that explores self-discovery, then Elizabeth Gilbert’s “City of Girls” is the perfect novel for you. Set in 1940s New York City, the novel portrays the story of an ambitious young woman, Vivian Morris, who moves to the city to live with her aunt and to attend college.

Although Vivian initially struggles to fit in and find her place in the city, she eventually discovers her passion for theater and embarks on a journey of love and self-discovery. Throughout the novel, readers are taken on a vibrant and immersive journey of self-discovery, exploring themes of friendship, love, and personal fulfillment.

One of the standout features of “City of Girls” is its vivid portrayal of 1940s New York City, capturing the energy and spirit of the time. Gilbert’s writing style is engaging and immersive, drawing readers in and keeping them hooked until the very end.

Plot Summary

The novel follows Vivian Morris, an unambitious young woman who moves to New York City to live with her unconventional aunt. Initially, Vivian struggles to fit in and find her place in the city, but soon discovers her passion for theater and begins working at a local theater company.

As Vivian immerses herself in the world of theater, she meets a diverse cast of characters and begins to explore her sexuality. However, her journey is not without its challenges, and she must confront the consequences of her actions and decisions.

Main Characters

Name Description
Vivian Morris The protagonist of the novel who moves to New York City to live with her aunt and embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Frankie A charming and charismatic actress who becomes Vivian’s friend and lover.
Edna Parker Watson Vivian’s unconventional aunt who owns a theater company and helps Vivian discover her passion for theater.

Overall, “City of Girls” is a novel that offers a compelling and insightful look into the complexities of self-discovery and personal fulfillment, set against the vibrant backdrop of 1940s New York City.

Writing Style and Narration

One of the most remarkable aspects of City of Girls is Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing style, which blends vivid imagery and elegant prose with a conversational tone that makes the story feel personal and relatable. Through her descriptive language and attention to detail, Gilbert creates a richly textured world that immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and emotions of 1940s New York City.

The narration of the audiobook version of City of Girls is equally impressive, with Blair Brown delivering a captivating performance that captures the essence of the characters and their journeys. Brown’s expressive voice and impeccable timing bring Gilbert’s words to life in a way that is both engaging and authentic.

The Art of Narration

Narration is a critical element of any audiobook, as it has the power to transform a simple reading into a transcendent experience. In City of Girls, Blair Brown’s narration elevates the story to new heights, creating an immersive and emotional journey that is impossible to forget. Through her expert use of tone, pace, and inflection, Brown brings the characters to life in a way that is both captivating and nuanced.

A Unique Writing Style

Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing style is uniquely her own, blending elements of literary fiction, historical fiction, and romance to create a genre-defying story that is both timeless and modern. Her prose is elegant and polished, yet accessible and relatable, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in the world of City of Girls and its characters.

Pros Cons
Engaging and descriptive writing style May not appeal to fans of traditional romance or historical fiction
Captivating and authentic narration Some readers may find the story slow-paced at times
Unique genre-defying story May not be suitable for all ages due to mature themes and language

Overall, Gilbert’s writing style and Brown’s narration combine to create an unforgettable audiobook experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Themes Explored in “City of Girls”

One of the most striking features of “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert is its exploration of various themes such as love, friendship, and the pursuit of personal happiness. The novel depicts the story of an eighteen-year-old girl, Vivian Morris, who moves to New York City in 1940 to live with her Aunt Peg and pursue a creative career. Throughout her journey, Vivian experiences and learns about the complexities of love and relationships, the value and impact of true friendship, and the importance of following one’s passions and finding purpose in life.

The theme of love is particularly relevant in “City of Girls,” with various characters demonstrating different forms of love, including romantic and platonic love. The novel portrays how love can be both a source of happiness and heartbreak, and how it can shape one’s identity and perspective on life.

The theme of friendship is also prominent in “City of Girls,” with Vivian developing deep and meaningful relationships with several female characters throughout the novel. These relationships help Vivian learn about herself, gain support and comfort during challenging times, and develop a sense of belonging in a city where she is a relative newcomer.

Finally, the theme of personal happiness and fulfillment is central to the story of “City of Girls,” with Vivian exploring various lifestyles and career paths before finding her own path and calling in life. This theme encourages readers to reflect on their own pursuits of happiness and to consider how they can live a fulfilling life.

Character Development

One of the most compelling aspects of “City of Girls” is the dynamic character development throughout the story. Elizabeth Gilbert masterfully constructs relatable characters that evolve as they navigate life’s joys and obstacles.

Vivian Morris, the novel’s protagonist, begins as a carefree and naive young woman and grows into a wise and self-assured adult. Through her relationships with other characters, such as the strong-willed Celia and the compassionate Edna, Vivian learns important lessons about love, friendship, and self-discovery. Throughout the novel, she transforms from a passive observer of life to an active participant, fully embracing her passions and desires.

“We are all hypocrites when it comes to the matter of our own happiness. We see the world through our own egocentric lens and deny the things that do not fit with our version of reality.”

The supporting characters in “City of Girls” also undergo significant changes. For example, glamorous theater actress Edna Parker Watson evolves from a one-dimensional celebrity into a complex and vulnerable woman. Gilbert’s attention to detail in character development creates a cast of characters that are not only relatable but memorable.

Setting and Atmosphere

“City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert takes place in the glamourous world of showgirls and theaters during the 1940s in New York City. The author’s vivid descriptions of the bustling city streets and iconic landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Radio City Music Hall, transport listeners to a time of glitz and glamour.

The atmospheric elements in the novel, such as the jazz music and the scent of cigarette smoke, create a nostalgic ambiance that gives the story a palpable sense of time and place. The juxtaposition of the lively nightlife and the gritty reality of wartime makes for a thrilling and emotional ride.

Overall, the setting and atmosphere of “City of Girls” play a crucial role in the story, bringing the characters and their experiences to life.

City of Girls Setting and Atmosphere

Plot and Pacing

In “City of Girls,” Elizabeth Gilbert delivers a plot that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Told through the perspective of the central character, Vivian, the story evolves in a non-linear fashion, jumping between different stages of her life. This unique approach to plot structure keeps the audience engaged, as they are compelled to piece together the narrative in a way that mirrors Vivian’s own journey of self-discovery.

The pacing of the story is also expertly crafted, with Gilbert’s use of descriptive language and vivid imagery creating a rich and immersive atmosphere. At times, the narrative unfolds at a leisurely pace, allowing the audience to savor the world and the characters inhabiting it. However, when the plot picks up speed, it does so with intensity and purpose, driving the story towards its satisfying conclusion.

Overall, the plot and pacing of “City of Girls” showcase Gilbert’s mastery of storytelling, as well as her ability to craft characters and settings that feel both familiar and wholly unique.

Standout Moments and Memorable Quotes

One of the most remarkable things about “City of Girls” is its ability to capture the essence of life and all its beautiful complexities. From beginning to end, this novel takes readers through a journey of love, friendship, heartbreak, and self-discovery, leaving them with many memorable moments to cherish. Here are some of the standout moments:

The Joy of Youth

At the heart of “City of Girls” lies a celebration of youthfulness and all the joy that comes with it. Vivian, the protagonist, encapsulates this spirit perfectly when she exclaims:

“I was young, it was New York, and I was having the time of my life.”

This quote captures the carefree and adventurous spirit of Vivian’s younger years and sets the tone for the rest of the novel.

A Reminder to Live Life to the Fullest

Throughout the novel, Gilbert reminds readers to appreciate every moment and live life to the fullest:

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

This quote encapsulates the core message of “City of Girls,” urging readers to embrace their true selves and revel in the pleasures that life has to offer.

The Pain of Heartbreak

At its core, “City of Girls” is a story about love, and with love often comes heartbreak. Gilbert captures the pain of heartbreak beautifully when Vivian admits:

“But falling in love is always a pretty crazy thing. It might appear out of the blue and just grab you. Who knows — maybe even tomorrow.”

This quote highlights the unpredictability of love and the emotional turmoil that can accompany it.

Overall, “City of Girls” is filled with many memorable moments and thought-provoking quotes that will stay with readers long after they’ve finished the book. It’s a testament to Elizabeth Gilbert’s talent as a writer and her ability to capture the beauty of life in all its many forms.

Reception and Critical Acclaim

Since its release, “City of Girls” has garnered significant attention and critical acclaim from readers and literary critics alike. The novel has received praise for its colorful characters, vivid setting, and compelling themes.

Reader Reception

On Goodreads, “City of Girls” has an overall rating of 3.91 out of 5 stars, based on over 100,000 ratings and 13,000 reviews. Many readers have praised Elizabeth Gilbert’s ability to create complex and relatable characters, as well as the novel’s evocative depiction of New York City during the 1940s.

“I loved the vivid and exuberant descriptions of the city, the love for life and the narrative’s central ideal that some of the most important aspects of living are not in the grand gestures but in the everyday interactions between people,” wrote one Goodreads reviewer.

Critical Acclaim

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “City of Girls” has also received widespread critical acclaim from literary publications. The New York Times Book Review called it “an absolute joy to read,” while NPR hailed it as “a lush and sensuous novel” that “captures the heartbeat of a city and a world forever on the brink of change.”

The book was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2019 and has been included on numerous “best of” lists, including The Washington Post’s Top Books of 2019.

Overall, “City of Girls” has been well-received by both readers and critics, solidifying Elizabeth Gilbert’s place as one of contemporary literature’s most talented and compelling storytellers.

Comparison to Other Works by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is a prolific writer, and “City of Girls” is just one of many beloved works in her bibliography. In this section, we’ll compare “City of Girls” to some of her other notable works, exploring similarities and differences in themes, writing style, and impact.

Title Publication Year Main Themes Writing Style
City of Girls City of Girls 2019 Love, Friendship, Self-discovery, Theatre Vibrant, Dialog-heavy, Youthful
Eat, Pray, Love Eat, Pray, Love 2006 Spirituality, Travel, Personal Growth Reflective, Witty, Philosophical
The Signature of All Things The Signature of All Things 2013 Science, Family, Identity, Love Historical, Descriptive, Inquisitive
Big Magic Big Magic 2015 Creativity, Inspiration, Artistic Process Lighthearted, Conversational, Informative

Although each of Gilbert’s works is unique in its own right, there are some commonalities between them. For example, love and self-discovery are recurring themes in “City of Girls,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” and “The Signature of All Things.” Additionally, Gilbert’s writing often has a reflective or philosophical tone, as seen in “Eat, Pray, Love” and “The Signature of All Things.”

However, “City of Girls” stands out for its vibrant, conversational writing style and its youthful, theater-focused plot. “Big Magic,” while not a novel, similarly stands apart from Gilbert’s fiction works with its lighthearted, informative approach to creativity and inspiration.

In summary, Elizabeth Gilbert’s body of work includes a diverse range of themes, writing styles, and impacts, with “City of Girls” showcasing the author’s talent for immersive, youthful storytelling.


In conclusion, “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert is a must-listen audiobook that offers a captivating portrayal of love, self-discovery, and personal growth. Gilbert’s writing style and the narration by Blair Brown create an immersive experience that keeps the audience engaged throughout the story.

The themes explored in “City of Girls” are both insightful and thought-provoking, reflecting on the importance of friendship, the pursuit of personal happiness, and the complexities of romantic relationships. The character development is also noteworthy, with the main characters evolving in realistic and meaningful ways.

The setting and atmospheric elements of the story create a vivid and immersive world that transports readers to the vibrant city of New York in the 1940s. The plot structure and pacing are also well-crafted, keeping the story moving forward while allowing space for character development and reflection.

Standout moments and memorable quotes from the audiobook are woven throughout the story, leaving a lasting impact on readers. The overall reception and critical acclaim for “City of Girls” are well-deserved, with both readers and critics praising the novel’s insightful themes and engaging storytelling.

Whether you’re a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s previous works or new to her writing, “City of Girls” is a must-add to your audiobook collection. With its unique characters, immersive setting, and insightful themes, this audiobook is a standout addition to the genre of literary fiction.

If you’re looking for a compelling story that will take you on an unforgettable journey of love, self-discovery, and personal growth, then “City of Girls” is definitely worth the listen.

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