American Expatriate Women in Paris
Email this review


 Dipping into the apparently endless stream of expatriate-in- Paris literature, Wiser (The Circle Tour, 1988, etc.; English/Univ. of Denver) offers a tiresome rehash of the lives of five intriguing women, all of whom have been better served elsewhere. In a narrative that spans the years 1844 through 1975, Wiser profiles Impressionist artist Mary Cassatt, author Edith Wharton, avant-garde publisher Caresse Crosby, doomed wife Zelda Fitzgerald, and entertainer Josephine Baker; all five passed significant portions of their lives in Paris. Along the way, there are stale musings about the beauty and social freedom of the city, and the usual cast of Paris-memoir characters (Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Picasso, etc.). At the outset, Wiser explains that ``...I went looking for the common thread of connection to Paris, or to one another. There was no clear thread.'' The ensuing manuscript only emphasizes this point. There's no clear explanation of why these particular women should have their lives linked in one volume; no angle, apart from shared nationality and artistic leanings, to tie them together as subjects over whom Paris exerted a special pull. Cassatt arrived on her own, with grudging family approval. Wharton was fleeing a ``suffocating'' marriage. Crosby and Fitzgerald merely followed their husbands. Baker was lured from New York to star in a revue. Only Wharton and Crosby, sharing a common cousin, Walter Berry, had any sustained relationship, and a cold one at that. Four of the women liked dogs and couturier gowns, and three of them were buried in France. Not much there. Or here, for that matter. (Photographs--some seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02999-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1991