The Lily Playhouse is a crumbling theatre in 1940s New York, hosting shows with chorus lines, flashy dancers, and not much plot. Vivian Morris, a 19 year old girl recently kicked out of Vassar College, is set to spend the summer there with her Aunt Peg, the Lily’s owner. What follows is a romping good time for Viv, a young girl with a taste for adventure and a flare for fashion! Making quick friends with flashy showgirls and handsome lead actors, Viv throws herself at life with reckless abandon. When her joie de vivre gets her into a bit more trouble than she can flirt her way out of, Viv is forced to leave New York and reassess her life.
Told from the perspective of Viv as a 95 year old woman, the narration follows Viv’s fabulous, flouncy life as a young adult, as well as her personal development through her twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond. Living through World War 2, moon landings, and the ups and downs of day to day life, Viv manages to go from a relatively vapid youth to a skilled tailor and dearly beloved friend to her community at large.
While the bright lights, partying, and excitement of New York City was entertaining for the first portion of the book, I found I really enjoyed seeing Viv progress beyond that character. She went through a lot of really interesting character developments and managed to turn into someone who is still interesting and exciting, but far less exhausting. This change really came through with the help of the various different friendships Viv forms throughout her life. While this book was initially described to me as an exciting, flirty, 1940s New York style novel, I would argue it is far more an ode to friendship.