I don’t know if this can actually be counted as “book club” since it’s 6:15am and there’s zero rosé involved. One can dream.
At last! A post I’ve been promising since the Ice Age. Finally had the chance yesterday to sit down on the dirty floor in the front hallway, rummage through a cramped bookshelf of dusty photo albums and novels I’ve read this year and figure out which three books to incoherently blab about to the Internet slash no one.
I WAS going to talk about Then She Was Gone, but realized my sister-in-law has it in Arkansas. I’ll get it back over Labor Day and get back to you. I’m rightly sure you’ll hold your breath until then.
But the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that the three above are books that still loom around in my psyche, for any number of reasons. Whether it be me strolling down sunny Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, or overhearing a certain word or phrase from the south, or piles of vibrant fabric spotted in a vintage clothing store, these books STAY with me.
So these we shall discuss.
I’ll start with the most recent read (well, two books back. yes I’m a maniac.) and we’ll go back in time.
City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Oh my gosh. Oh my ever lovin’ good gracious.
I wasn’t sure I’d like it. I had no idea what to actually expect, other than the, “Yeah yeah it’s set in New York City in 1940 and it’s theater and fashion and sex.”
Well, that it is! But it’s so, so so much more.
A 19-year old Vivian Morris gets sent to New York City (after being kicked out of Vassar, oopsie!) to live with her foot-loose-and-fancy-free Aunt Peg, the co-owner of an almost falling-down rusty theater, called The Lily Playhouse. From there, SO MUCH HAPPENS. Vivian discovers her sexual side (be warned, sensitive readers: it gets, um, descriptively hey-oooooh! at times. You’re like, “OKAY I’M IN”.) She cozies in not only to a few tight female relationships early on, but falls deep into an idolizing obsession over an older woman, a fashion icon in her eyes. (and mine, too if we’re honest).
Vivian (Vee, for short) is a brilliant budding seamstress, and helps bring the theater back to life with her ability to shop for fabric and sew the most outrageous costumes for showgirls and actors.
But she makes a mistake. A horrible, scandalous mistake that sets her back professionally and personally with every single person she knows.
And these are just the young years.
Fast forward through time, as we watch Vivian grow older, escaping an almost-marriage, a move back to New York City, a rebuilding of sorts with her Aunt Peg (Who actually never gave up her. Oh, Aunt Peg!) and beyond. She takes us through the 1950s and ’60s (my favorite part was the visual of Vivian and her lady crew sitting on top of their Manhattan building in the summertime with a fan blowing up their shirts to cool their boobs. I wanna do that!), the financial and emotional remnants of the war, the changing of times, fashion, her FRIENDS.
That’s the best part of the whole ding dang thing. Her lady friends. Her crew. While she did have romantic loves in her life (okay, a sloth of lovers), it’s her female friends that really made up the fabric (ha! oh) of Vivian Morris. And it’s such a freaking delight to read.
Oh! And get this, the whole book is a letter to a woman named Angela, the daughter of a man she once loved. That part’s not exactly scandalous. Just beautiful. Moving.
I’ll be honest, the only other book by Gilbert that I’ve read was (of course) Eat, Pray, Love. And that book swallowed me whole, like every other human on this planet. But you know what, City of Girls is so.much.better.
It’s a breezy read. But gutsy. Lots of dialogue, lots of interesting internal narrative. And beyond that it’s fashion and theater and YOUTH. And New York City! Honestly what’s not to love.
And really, what stands out is the message. The message of not losing yourself in the deluge of what a man expects. The message of standing up for your independence and female strength. For the protection of your army of women friends. Vivian and Aunt Peg (and Olive!) were not only unexpected trendsetters for the time, they were laying the groundwork for what would become the fundamental bed of women’s rights and independence. I could not love it more.
I know I’m forgetting so much, but have you read it? Did you obsess? Who was your favorite character? Tell me your takeaways!
City of Girls, one of THEE BEST books I’ve read this year, and in my entire life.
Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Oh my gosh. Ohhhh my heart.
First of all, it’s just everything you want in a book, yet you don’t know it.
Another period piece, this tale (and it is a tale! totally fiction. hard to believe, right?!) takes place in the 1970s, Los Angeles. The book is 100% interview style, which at first you’re like, “Am I going to like this? Can I get used to this rhythm, this choppy dialogue?” YES, yes you can, and you will. It’s like watching any E! Hollywood rockumentary. In.
You have a band. A band with a broodingly handsome lead singer named Billy. A band wanting to make it big in the L.A. (and everywhere, duh) scene. And you have a young girl with a tiny waist (I’m fine), unruly red waves and a voice so in charge it runs you over like a semi. Eventually this band and this girl (DAISY JONES, if you haven’t figured that out) come together on what they think will be a fleeting moment of success, with a duet called Honeycomb. Well, it’s more than successful. So beyond successful that Daisy Jones joins the band (against Billy’s bratty tantrum-like will) and things just get so crazy from there.
Magic is made! But at a huge price.
Fame. Sex. Drugs. Touring. Infidelity. Heartbreak. And that’s just the surface.
You basically watch the rising success of this band, with the intoxicating enchantment that is Daisy Jones, and then you watch it completely and painfully crumble right in front of your eyes.
It’s so Fleetwood Mac! Hiiiieeee, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. AND CHRISTIE AND JOHN McVIE. Interwebs of passionate crazy town. I think I read that Daisy Jones and the Six fictionally mimics the story of Fleetwood Mac. And I’m here for it.
The story ends in an unexpected, respectful way. Much like City of Girls, there’s a tie from the interviewer to a specific reader recipient. And you do find out that not all musicians are evil horn dogs! (I’ve not said “horn dog” since 1993.)
During the band’s heyday (an iconic era for Rock and Roll, to say the least), they released a record called Aurora. And I desperately need it to be real so that I can listen to it for the rest of ever.
Having music in my blood, and knowing what it’s like (even just a tiny speck) being in bands, this one just spoke to me. I loved the language, the setting, the time period, the clothing, the dynamic, the passion. And I really need Daisy Jones to do my hair.
(also, should I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Same author, right?)
Last but definitely not least, Where the Crawdads Sing.
OH MY GOSH.
Okay, yeah. This book. Wow.
I’m going to go ahead and say this is my favorite book so far of the year. Big words, I know. But it’s just so . . . PERFECT.
Another period book (you see a theme here), it toggles between the years 1952 (and on) and 1969 (and on). An excruciatingly poor six-year old Kya Clark is all but abandoned by her family to survive on her OWN in a tiny shack along the North Carolina marshland. Dude, I read this and tried to imagine Nat and Will having the smarts to be on their own in that sort of climate? No. Guess again. Not happening. Yet you can’t look away.
The whole story is just so beautifully intriguing. Of course there’s a murder. And coming of age. And a young girl on her own figuring out what her body does once a month. I was SO GLAD they didn’t gloss over that. And there’s love. And complex characters, some a product of their time, and others that you fall in love with (oh, Jumpin and Mabel!) And young boys with blond wavy hair. And obviously heartbreak. All the human things that make us weird creatures tick.
Along with that, there’s race. And prejudice and vile judgement. But this is the thing – even with the hard, ugly things to get through, Delia (almost called her Celia! ha. Celia Ray. Get it? Never mind) Owens’ writing is just exquisite. Being a successful nature writer, she brings her gift of imagery to a novel platform, and it just blows you away.
The story is tender, sweet, awful, disgusting, interesting, captivating, and stunning. And then the end. The (ahem) poetic twist at the tail end just makes you sit back with wide eyes and take in what just happened to your whole perspective and psyche and REMNANTS OF EMOTIONAL DESTRUCTION. Never have I experienced such satisfaction at the end of a story.
It’s like, a perfect book.
So, here’s the official list of BEV BOOKS (ha) that we’ve (I’ve) read this year. 20 novels, guys. Kind of into this number. If you want me to review any of these in particular, cast your vote and I’ll try to for next time!
Of course all these abridged recaps (with more spoilers in them) are saved in my Instagram highlights, if you fancy a gander.
(also, how many of these are going to be movies?!)
So this is what’s next! I will say, I have about 70 pages left of Something in the Water, so stay tuned for that recap in Stories. (I still owe you Behind Closed Doors, too. hoooooooly nightmares.)
I have a LONG list of books going, but I change my mind on the order so frequent, hence the non-intimidating list of five here. If you have any suggestions of books to add to the master, by all means, HOLLA BACK, BAE. (sorry)
And finally, if you’re into this format, let me know and I’ll keep it an ongoing blog series. Like once every two months or something?
ALSO AND THIS IS COOL so thanks for humoring me. On September 12th, my favorite minimal earthy home boutique Golden and Pine is going to host a book club hang for me! I’ll be announcing the book at the beginning of August (hi, what would we read?) so that you have plenty of time to read it. And then come hang out and drink wine and eat snacks with me. Duh.