One of the chief regrets of book-loving women of my age — and a surprising number of men — is that no one writes novels like Love in a Cold Climate and The Dud Avocado any more. I’m talking about the brand of romantic misadventure written with such wit, verve and emotional honesty that you feel you’ve washed down 100 life lessons within a vodka martini. Miraculously, Elizabeth Gilbert has managed to pull off exactly this feat with her high-kicking new novel City of Girls. It helps that she’s set the story in a shabby New York vaudeville theatre in the 1940s, thronging with bohemians, and everyone spouts one-liners straight out of Romcom Central.
The novel winds its way back into the past in the form of a letter to a woman called Angela, who’s written to the ageing narrator asking ‘if you might now feel comfortable telling me what you were to my father?’.