Each week for Paperback Throwback, I highlight a book from my ever-growing collection of older paperbacks, ‘90s and prior. Come check out everything from Zebra’s line of horror to Scholastic’s preteen Apple Paperbacks, and everything in-between— you’ll know them by their stylishly cheesy covers, flashy plots, and cheap prices.
Join me on this stroll down Literary Memory Lane. Stops include Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, and anywhere else mass market paperbacks may be lurking.
This week’s throwback is fashionably charming.
There’s nothing quite like a Paul Gallico novel, so it’s a good thing he wrote so many of them.
Initially a popular sportswriter through the 1920s, Gallico shifted to short stories in the 1930s, eventually receiving worldwide recognition in 1940 for his “The Snow Goose” in The Saturday Evening Post— a tale so popular he expanded it to a novella the next year. From there, his fictional output increased, culminating in a career of numerous short stories and over forty novels, including The Poseidon Adventure.
Often sentimental and blunt, Gallico’s work revels in its simplicity. His many worlds exist as places where rather ordinary characters grab at extraordinary adventures and kindness always wins out.
None of his books exemplify this mantra perhaps as best as Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. First published in 1958, it follows Ada Harris, a London charwoman, who discovers a Dior gown while cleaning one of her client’s homes. She’s never seen anything so beautiful and, wanting one for herself, she saves for three years and plans a trip to the ever-chic House of Dior. But the denizens of Paris have never experienced someone quite like the charming Mrs. Harris.
Writing out a synopsis for a Gallico book is an exercise in understatement because his plots are so simple. Here, a woman covets a dress and sets about getting it. Yet it makes for riveting reading as Mrs. Harris bustles around a city completely unknown to her, dropping into characters’ lives like a fairy godmother. Ultimately, it’s literary fiction with a commercial charm— a ‘50s fairy tale.
This folksy charm proved so popular, Gallico continued the series for three more books, taking Mrs. Harris to New York, Moscow, and even for a stint in the U.K.’s Parliament.
Title: Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris
Author: Paul Gallico
Publisher: Micheal Joseph
Publication Date: 1958
Classification: General Fiction