The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
The New York Review of Books reprint of this book with a new afterword by the author has drawn a lot of attention this summer, and been compared from everything from Sex and the City and Bridget Jones's Diary to Daisy Miller and Breakfast at Tiffany's.
And there's a bit of truth to each of them. Sometimes the book is as frothy, fabulous, and self-absorbed as contemporary chick lit. However, Dundy's tale of the irrepressible screwball Sally Jay Gorce on the loose in 1950s Paris also offers biting insights on American expatriates, bohemians, and the European leisure class. And it's also damned funny.
At times, Sally Jay's breathless observations and accounts of youthful folly come so fast and furiously that it's almost exhausting. But more often than not, the book is just unspeakable amounts of fun. Also, there are a few moments when I could swear the book was actually being narrated by Gwen. For example:
I didn't quite see why I, who had done nothing wrong, so to speak, who at any rate most certainly hadn't started all this, should wind up crushed and disheveled, with a torn dress, a burning cheek and lipstick all over my face, while he, the real culprit, was suavely ushering me out, and I strove to correct this injustice.
"Now that you're free," I said on my way to the door, "you must come to America. I'm sure you can fortune-hunt on a much larger scale there than you've been able to over here. Only you'd better start quickly before you turn into just another dirty old man."
At one point, Brady came into the living room to find me chuckling over a passage and asked what I found so funny. I said:
"Well, Sally Jay had a play rehearsal in the morning, so she was going to bed early, but then she couldn't sleep and thought she'd better go over her script and make some notes. But her pencil broke, and then she broke her eyebrow pencil trying to use it, and then she couldn't sleep, so she decided to go out and get a grilled cheese and hot chocolate, but on her way she realized that one of her friends was singing at a jazz club, so she stopped in there and when she sat down at her table, men started offering her cigarettes. And then she realized that she was still in her pajamas and she was the only woman in the whole club who wasn't a prostitute."
And yes, the whole book is kind of like that.