Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris
Mrs. Ada Harris has been a London char (cleaning woman) since her husband died over 20 years earlier and left her penniless. She is content in her life and likes her clients. Her best friend, Mrs. Butterfield, is also a char. When one is sick, the other covers for her. And when you ask her name, she says "Mrs. 'Arris" in her best Cockney.
One day she was cleaning at Lady Dant's. When she opened the closet, she was flabbergasted by the two lovely visions hanging there. Lady Dant had two Dior gowns hanging there as she tried to decide which to wear that evening. Mrs. 'Arris was dumbstruck and full of covetness. She decided she had to have her own Dior gown.
When she and Mrs. Butterfield bet on the football pools the following week, she wins enough money to give her a start. She decides to save her money until she can afford the gown. So for the next few years she gives up her movies, new clothes, extra tea, or her favorite it of beauty, flowers. The gown is her goal and nothing is going to stop her.
When she finally gets the money, she flies to Paris for the day and goes to Dior. There the simple, sturdy English char has the experience of her life. Her presence has influence far beyond what she could ever guess.
Paul Gallico's short novel is charming. It's a reminder of how each person can affect other's lives. It also reminds the reader not to judge a group until you meet them yourself. As Mrs. 'Arris reflects on her trip, she has learned that the people (French) that she had heard maligned for years are really just like the English people she knows. She has made new, unexpected friends. So have they.
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris shows the perseverance a person can have while trying to achieve a goal. Also, Mrs. 'Arris knows what she is and isn't ashamed of it. She knows she not a "toff" but she also knows that she can afford the dress and doesn't mind she looks a bit eccentric. An older English woman in a young, exquisite French gown is an anomaly. Even so, it's her dress and she knows it. And it makes her go back to her own youth and love affair with Mr. 'Arris.
Gallico gives a brief, shrewd look at people in this delightful novel. He has Mrs. 'Arris see past the facade to the people beneath. Her own lack of self-consciousness makes other people treat her better, ignoring that she's not part of the class that normally patronizes Dior.
Read this and enjoy.
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris is out of print. I couldn't get it at my local library, either. I had to borrow it through the county consortium which includes a couple of our large universities. .
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
Book Rating System