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Review: City of Girls

City of Girls

“ … 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.”

Can I just start by saying how much I love the above quote, how powerful I find it, how much I wish I could’ve learned that at a younger age.

City of Girls is told as a letter from our main character Vivian to Angela in answer to her question: what were you to my father?

What follows is Vivian recounting her life story beginning at age 19, a drop out of Vassar college and newly landed resident of New York City. She lives with her enigmatic aunt who runs a crumbling inner city playhouse and a whole cast of boisterous, loud, and eccentric characters that filter in and out of the playhouse. Vivian’s protected upbringing and world views are blown wide open as she discovers her sexuality, her talents, her failures, and the harsh consequences of her mistakes … sometimes there is no fixing it.

While I found that the pacing of this book really slogged at times and the premise of writing a 460 page novel in answer to a woman’s simple question a little odd… it really grew on me. Once I gave in and realized this was not going to be a fast paced adventure, I enjoyed my time with it.

The second half of the book definitely brought more intrigue and the pace moved quicker, but on the whole this was an effortless, enjoyable read. It was a little bit of a mystery too as to when we were actually going to meet Angela’s father in this story of Vivian’s life!

While it is slow at times, it is packed full of amazing, quotable lines and excellent insights on being a woman, becoming a woman, challenging the mainstream … being a human being really. What is it to be good? Can people do bad things and still be good? Is life so linear? What is a “grown-up”?

“The field of honour is painful Vivian … of course nobody is required to stand in the field of honour. If you find it too challenging, you may always exit, and then you can remain a child. But if you wish to be a person of character, I’m afraid this is the only way. But it may be painful.”

This book grew on me and some of the characters really touched my heart. It really is a treat of a book if you are willing to go through the slower beginning and take your time with it.


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