A GIRL IN PARIS by Shusha Guppy


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Continuing in the brisk, anecdotal style of The Blindfold Horse (1988), which told of her enchanted Persian childhood, Guppy reviews her years in 1950's Paris. Although the setting and many of Guppy's characters may be familiar to Western readers, the leading lady herself is distinctive, sharing early impressions and the start of enduring friendships with a subtle effervescence. All things seem possible as the young student, away from home for the first time, settles into a cramped room, tries alcohol, masters French, and mixes with an international array of brilliant students, artists, philosophers--people of promise. In less gifted hands, this scene would be hackneyed; but Guppy (now a Paris Review editor) invests it with a spark, an astute vision, and ensures a cordial reception. She hears Casals and the shy Segovia (playing as if the guitar ""were part of his very body""); meets Ilya Ehrenburg, Calder, and Camus; is inspired by The Second Sex even as Sartre and Beauvoir nearly pass by her window; and enters into the inevitable first relationship (one Pierre) before taking his measure. Throughout, Guppy recalls her Saint-Germain experience as a kind of intellectual tourism and deftly returns to the sources of particular formative ideas--a book, a music teacher, a neighbor--with impressive ease. At the close, with her customary good luck, Guppy meets her future husband on a last stopover before returning home. If we're lucky, her next book will be about her London years.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: William Heinemann--dist. by Trafalgar