The blazingly brilliant new novel from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the international bestseller Eat Pray Love: a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of a lost New York
It is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by 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.
Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to be free, to get up to no good, to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And 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 the wake of this true, true star.
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,' she 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 Number One New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and non-fiction. Her story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her follow-up memoir to Eat Pray Love, Committed, became an instant Number One New York Times bestseller. She has published two novels, Stern Men and The Signature of All Things, which was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize. She lives in New Jersey.