|Dana D'Aniello||Gallico, Paul: Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||First edition published by Doubleday & Company, Inc.|
Garden City, New York
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||First edition published in light blue cloth with a black cloth backstrip.|
|3. Image of Cover Art||A1319990203163619.jpg|
|4. Pagination||82 leaves|
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||This book is neither edited nor introduced.|
|6. Illustrated?||Illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi. The book contains ten black & white illustrations.|
|7. Sample Illustration||A1719990202172404.jpg|
|8. General Appearance||The general physical appearance of this book is extremely good.|
It is a small book--the cover measures just 6 and 3/4 by 5 inches.
The dimensions of the cloth-bound cover are slightly larger than
those of the leaves, thus the pages are well protected. The cover
is comprised of light blue cloth with a black backstrip over the spine.
The title is embossed in purple lettering on both the front and back
covers. The spine is embossed with gold lettering containing the title,
author, and publisher. The cover art is brightly colored and aesthetically
pleasing. The typography is crisp and clear, making the book easily readable.
The illustrations are also reproduced clearly. Overall, this book is well
printed and presented in an attractive manner.
|9. Image of Sample Chapter Page||A1919990202172404.jpg|
|10. Description of Paper||The paper in the first edition copy examined is holding up excellently.|
The pages have yellowed a bit with age, but are all sturdy and intact.
There are minimal stains/smudges and no tears in the book. The pages
are comprised of strong, thick paper. The edges of the leaves in this
book are cut lengthwise with a semi-rough finish. The top and bottom
of each leaf has a smooth finish.
|11. Description of Binding||The binding on the first edition copy examined is strong and sturdy.|
The leaves of the book are securely bound with glue to a thick strip
|12. Title Page Transcription||Mrs. 'Arris | Goes to | Paris | by | Paul Gallico | [The title and author appear|
in italicized, script-like lettering and are surrounded by a sketched, oval-shaped
design representing a mirror. This drawing is presumably by the book's
illustrator.] | Drawings by Gioia Fiammenghi | Doubleday & Company, Inc.,
Garden City, New York, 1958
|13. Image of Title Page||A11319990202172404.jpg|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library. New York, NY. |
(Columbia was Paul Gallico's alma mater.)
|15. Other||Dedication (page 7): |
"To the gallant and indispensible ladies
who, year in, year out,
tidy up the British Isles,
this book is lovingly dedicated"
Disclaimer (page 6):
"The House of Dior is indubitably--the
house of Dior. But all of the characters
in this work of fiction located on both
sides of the Channel are as indubitably
fictitious and non-existent and resemble
no living person or persons. P.G."
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||Doubleday issued just one edition of the book.|
Doubleday sold the book by itself, but also packaged
the first edition in a collection entitled "Gallico Magic"
in 1967. This collection included Mrs. 'Arris Goes
to Paris as one of seven books written by Paul Gallico.
|2. Image of Cover Art||A2219990304154415.jpg|
|3. Sample Illustration||A2319990304154415.jpg|
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||At least 21 known printings of Doubleday's first edition.|
|5. Editions from other publishers?||**Editions published in the United States**|
American Printing House for the Blind, 1962 (Braille version)
Pocket Books, 1963 (published with sequel Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York)
Science Research Associates, 1964
International Polygonics, Ltd., 1989
Bower Hill Braillists Foundation, 1989 (Braille version)
Reader's Digest Condensed Books, Volume One, 1959, Winter Selections
Reader's Digest Association, 1958 & 1966 (condensed version)
Reader's Digest Condensed Books, Volume Two, 1959, Winter Selections
Reader's Digest Association, 1959 (condensed version)
Bestsellers from Reader's Digest Condensed Books
Reader's Digest Association, 1960 (condensed version)
**Editions published in England under the title Flowers for Mrs. Harris**
M. Joseph, 1958
Addison-Wesley, 1964 (Bridge series, abridged edition)
F.A. Thorpe, 1972 (large print edition, published with
sequel Mrs. Harris Goes to New York)
Ulverscroft, 1972 (Ulverscroft large print series, published
with sequel Mrs. Harris Goes to New York)
Penguin Books, 1977
Penguin Books, 1994 (as part of the collection
"The World of Mrs. Harris")
|6. Last date in print?||The U.S. version of this book is currently in print as of 1999. |
The current edition of Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris was
first published in 1989 by International Polygonics, Ltd.
1994 was the last printing of Flowers for Mrs. Harris (British version).
However, this version of the book is not currently in print.
|7. Total copies sold?||Over 70,000 sold by the end of August, 1959.|
Roughly 2,900 copies sold per week at this time.
Source: "Publisher's Weekly" (8/31/59)
The book spent a combined total of 61 weeks on the "Publisher's Weekly"
and "New York Times" bestsellers lists.
Source: Justice. Bestseller Index.
No further information available.
|8. Sales by year?||No information available.|
|9. Advertising copy:||A full page ad placed in "Publisher's Weekly" on August 31, 1959|
features an illustration from the book and declares:
"Guarantee no Seventh Avenue copies of this Paris original!
Your good news for Christmas is that Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris
will go right on being yours alone. There will be NO lower-priced
edition of any kind for at least a year from this month...
NOTHING but the same $2.50 edition that you keep selling...and
selling...and selling. That's a promise."
|10. Image of sample advertisement||A21019990304154415.jpg|
|11. Other promotion?||The book is plugged in advertisements for other Paul Gallico|
works as well. Ads for Too Many Ghosts and The Hurricaine Story
in "Publisher's Weekly" make reference to it, respectively:
"With Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris now in its thirtieth
week on the best seller list...need we say more?" (7/20/59)
"...Gallico's new heroine is as dependable, gallant, tenacious--and
British-to-the-core--as Mrs. 'Arris herself." (11/16/59)
|12. Performances in other media?||A made-for-TV movie:|
Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris, 1992. Directed by Anthony Shaw.
Starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. 'Arris. The movie originally
aired on the CBS network and has since been released on video
by several distributors:
Bonneville Family Entertainment/Hearst Entertainment, 1992
Feature Films for Families, 1994
BWE Video, 1998
Featured on an episode of the CBS television program
Studio One, 1958. Directed by David Greene.
Story outline/synopsis of the episode available.
Actual episode unavailable.
Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris: a musical play in two acts, 1958.
No further information found. The musical was apparently written
but never produced.
Original illustrations done for the book by Gioia Fiammenghi
(ink, watercolor studies, mixed media) available in the
Children's Literature and Research Collection, University of
Minnesota Library, Minneapolis, MN.
|13. Translations?||All translations published under the British title|
Flowers for Mrs. Harris:
(French) Des Fleurs pour Mrs. Harris
Paris: Libr. Stock, 1959.
(Swedish) Mrs. Harris Reser Till Paris
Helsingborg, Germany: Bokforlaget Bocker AB, 1965.
Bath, England: Chivers, 1982.
(both large print editions)
(German) Ein Kleid von Dior: Roman
Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1959 & 1964.
[S.I.]: Bertelsman Lesering, 1962.
H. Richarz, 1985.
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||Three sequels were written by Paul Gallico:|
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1960.
[published in England as Mrs. Harris Goes to New York. London: M. Joseph, 1960.]
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1965.
[published in England as Mrs. Harris, MP. London: Heinemann, 1965.]
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow. New York: Delacorte Press, 1974.
[published in England as Mrs. Harris Goes to Moscow. London: Heinemann, 1974.]
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
|Paul William Gallico was a remarkably prolific writer whose successful career spanned several decades of the twentieth century. Gallico is remembered primarily for his 41 books, the majority of which were quite commercially successful, although not critically acclaimed. Gallico was born on July 26, 1897 in New York City, the sole child of immigrants Paolo and Hortense (Erlich) Gallico. Paolo, a native Italian, was a composer and concert pianist who hoped his son would aspire to a career in music, but Paul showed much more interest in sports as a young man. He played football in high school and continued on to Columbia University, where he was captain of the college crew team. His studies at Columbia were put on hold in 1918, when Gallico served in World War I as a turret gunner for the U.S. Navy. He got his B.S. from Columbia in 1921. Gallico’s first job was as a review secretary for the National Board of Motion Picture Review. In 1922, he became a film reviewer for the New York Daily News, but quickly made the transition to sports reporting. Gallico was a sports editor and columnist for the Daily News from 1924-36. "In these years, he started the Golden Gloves boxing tournament for matched amateurs; he wrote exposes of sham amateurism, Jim Crow barriers, and fake wrestling" (Dictionary of Literary Bibliography). Gallico was best known for his up close and personal style of reporting. He boxed a round against Jack Dempsey (who knocked him out in less than two minutes), swam against Johnny Weismuller, and golfed with Bobby Jones—all three were prominent athletes of the day. After 1936, Gallico retired from sports writing and devoted the rest of his life to free-lance fiction. Hundreds of his short stories and articles were published. He was also a contributing editor to several popular magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, and Esquire. By the time his first book was published in 1938, Gallico was already over forty years old. The book, Farewell to Sport, was drawn from reminiscences of his sports reporting days that had first been published serially in Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1943, Gallico became a war correspondent for Cosmopolitan. In 1950, he emigrated to Europe, residing in London, Liechtenstein, and finally Monaco, where he became close friends with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Gallico wrote abundantly in Europe—an average of a book a year until his death. Among Gallico’s best-selling novels: Adventures of Hiram Holliday (1939); The Snow Goose (1941); Confessions of a Story Writer (1946); Thomasina (1957); Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris (1958); Too Many Ghosts (1959); Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to New York (1960); Scruffy (1962); Love, Let Me Not Hunger (1963); The Silent Miaow (1964); Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Parliament (1965); The Poseidon Adventure (1969); and Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Moscow (1974). The Snow Goose was his only critical success. Gallico also wrote eleven screenplays, most notably Lou Gehrig: Pride of the Yankees (for which he received an Academy Award nomination in 1942) and The Poseidon Adventure, "a three-star film in 1972, [which] became the prototype for other disaster films" (Dictionary of American Biography). Paul Gallico’s popular works have been produced for film, television, and even the Broadway stage. His personal papers and manuscripts are presently collected at his alma mater, Columbia University, in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Gallico was married four times in his life. The first three marriages, each of which ended in divorce, were to Alva Thoits (1921-34), Elaine St. Johns (1935-6), and the Baroness Pauline Garibaldi (1939-54). His marriage to Thoits produced two sons: William Taylor and Robert Leston Gallico. In 1963, Gallico married the Baroness Virginia von Falz-Fein in Monaco, where he spent his final years. Paul Gallico died of a heart attack in Monaco on July 15, 1976. He was 78 years old. |
|Paul Gallico's short novel Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris was published in late 1958. Within weeks, literary critics were offering their reviews to the general reading public. Most of the contemporary reviews found for Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris praise the novel and its author for spinning a light-hearted, charming, and above all, happy tale. Prior to publication of the novel, Gallico had been known for writing novels and short stories replete with sentimentality. Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris only served to strengthen the author’s reputation as a sentimentalist. It was the first in the Mrs. 'Arris series, which would ultimately include three sequels. A vast majority of contemporary reviews for the novel were positive. Critics were generally quite complimentary when it came to Gallico's storytelling ability. Reviewers found the novel's heroine, Mrs. 'Arris, to be an extremely lovable and endearing character. The message of the novel is simple, yet universal. Reviewers believed all readers could potentially relate to the London charwoman’s quest to own a designer dress from the House of Dior. Her character represents anyone who has ever striven to realize a seemingly impossible dream. Her story was lauded by many critics. Bookmark called Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris a "heartwarming, engaging novelette." Fanny Butcher of the Chicago Sunday Tribune concurred, claiming that Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris was "as light and as flavorful as a Grand Mariner soufflé." I was able to locate ten reviews written within the first year of the novel's publication. Many of these contemporary reviews have nothing but praise for the novel. Library Journal called it a "brief, delightful bouquet of dreams and realities for all women and girls who have ever wished for something special." Even though the plot appeared improbable to some critics, most admittedly overlooked this fact and focused instead on the positive message conveyed through the novel's heroine. A review in the Bulletin from Virginia Kirkus’ Service said, "This is one of those enchanting—and enchanted—stories that couldn’t possibly happen but that it would be fun to think could happen." Nathaniel Benchley of the Saturday Review claimed that Gallico’s accomplished writing style served to convince readers that it actually could: "It is to Mr. Gallico’s credit that he manages to make a believable—or almost believable—tale out of a totally preposterous situation…What Mr. Gallico has done is adopt a sort of fairy-story technique, making the smaller details apparently logical and convincing as he goes along, until the reader is willing to concede that the main event might really have happened after all. It is no mean feat, and he has accomplished it deftly and with good humor."|
Other critical reviews make mention of the heavy sentimentality, but emphasize that its presence did not serve to detract from the overall quality of the novel. Booklist cited the novel as "improbable but amusing" and added that "its sentimentality will be a recommendation rather than a deterrent to the author’s following," who were apparently accustomed to Gallico’s signature style from some of his earlier novels. Riley Hughes of Catholic World’s critique of the novel called it "unashamedly sentimental—yet extremely winning..." The New Yorker, on the other hand, was not quite as tolerant of the heavy dose of sentimentality in Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. "One paragraph more," warned the reviewer, "and this sentimental confection would have become sickening, but it is very short—a charming, sweetly scented fairy tale."
Only one of the ten reviews directly offers negative criticism. The Wisconsin Library Bulletin said, "This is the answer to a lady’s request for something short, entertaining, and harmless, but it is disappointing to the author’s followers." However, this review stands alone in claiming that previous Gallico fans would be unsatisfied with Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. As can be seen by examining contemporary reception history, Paul Gallico’s novel was enjoyed by many critics and subsequently loved by readers in Europe and the United States.Reviews:
Catholic World (2/59)
Chicago Sunday Tribune (12/7/58)
Bulletin from Virginia Kirkus’ Service (9/1/58)
Library Journal (12/15/58)
New Yorker (11/22/58)
San Francisco Chronicle (12/7/58)
Saturday Review (12/20/58)
Wisconsin Library Bulletin (1/59)
|I was unable to find any subsequent reception history for the book Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. However, I was able to find a bit on the 1992 made-for-TV movie based on the book. The movie, starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. ‘Arris, was first broadcast in 1992. It has since been released on home video by several distributors. I found three mini-reviews of the movie on the World Wide Web. All three were provided by regular people who had seen the movie and wished to comment on it. The reviews sound quite similar to the contemporary ones made by literary critics in the late 1950s. In spite of forty years, it is still easy for people to relate to, and find enjoyment in, Gallico’s story. The first movie review was located on Amazon.com and was originally posted in December, 1998. The reviewer gave the movie five stars and said it was "very sweet—it touched my heart…This simple, sweet, almost corny movie somehow managed to push all the right buttons with me…This movie leaves you with a very warm feeling." The other two reviews were located on the Internet Movie Database, where the movie received eight out of ten stars. The pair of reviews were posted recently—January and February, 1999, respectively. The purity and simplicity of Gallico’s characters and plot seem to be appreciated and viewed almost like a breath of fresh air in this day and age. As one reviewer put it, "As this movie lifts our spirits it reminds us that sensitive development of appealing characters and of a simple plot make a movie one to be truly cherished, and that excesses of special effects, gore, sex and violence leave us ultimately empty." The second reviewer echoes these sentiments: "It was a real pleasure to watch this small, honest and humble film…[it is] just like Cinderella." Reaction to the movie mirrors the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the novel itself. Though undeniably sentimental, unrealistic, and, some would argue, dated, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris is a story that continues to give people great joy today.Reviews:|
Internet Movie Data Base (1/22/99 and 2/8/99)
|Paul Gallico’s best-selling novel Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris was first published on November 20, 1958. Its popularity was not instantaneous, but rather built gradually over a span of several months. Ultimately, the novel placed ninth on the annual bestsellers list for fiction in 1959. Part of the novel’s wide appeal stemmed from Gallico’s past achievements as a novelist. Though rarely critically acclaimed, his 41 novels enjoyed considerable commercial success. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris spent a combined total of 61 weeks on the "New York Times" and "Publisher’s Weekly" bestsellers lists in 1959 (Justice, 121). Other reasons for the book’s popularity include its storybook quality, genuinely likable characters, and the ability to impart a moral lesson of universal import. Gallico’s novel touches on major issues including class and gender relations and the benevolent spirit of humanity that unites us all. Its protagonist stresses the unimportance of materialism and the indomitable nature of the human spirit. Finally, it heartens readers with the simple, optimistic message that anything is possible if one dares to dream.Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris centers on Ada Harris, a London charwoman who dreams of one day owning a Christian Dior gown. After spying one in the wardrobe of a wealthy employer, Mrs. Harris pronounces it her life’s goal to own a genuine Dior creation from Paris. Gallico then whisks readers over three years of scrimping and saving, wishing and hoping. Mrs. Harris’ good luck is balanced by continued hardships as she tries to save enough money to reach her goal. Through it all, the persistence of her dream never wavers. Finally, Mrs. Harris makes her journey across the English Channel to pursue her fantasy gown. Her ability to touch the lives of everyone she meets on her whirlwind trip to Paris makes for a sweet, sentimental narrative. The optimistic message of the novel consistently shines through—no dream is ever impossible if one truly believes in it and works hard to make it come true. Gallico also imparts additional lessons within his novel. He tries to impress upon readers that, after all is said and done, the ability to touch the lives of others, while being kind and selfless, is what matters most in life. Contemporary audiences were used to such sentimentality from Gallico, who in the past had published such heart-tugging works as The Snow Goose (1941) and Thomasina (1957). After first gaining respectability as a sportswriter in the 1920s and 30s, Gallico had long since established a reputation as a talented, prolific fiction writer and remarkable storyteller. Audiences came to desire and expect his novels to be both entertaining and infused with sentimental values and qualities.Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris was published in the United States before the social and political upheaval brought on by the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, President Kennedy’s assassination, and the Vietnam War. People saw the late fifties as a time of innocence and prosperity in America. Thus, it seems fitting that Mrs. ‘Arris was so well received at the time by both critics and the reading public. The light-hearted, whimsical subject matter seems to fit right in with a society reflected in contemporary television programs such as Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed, and Father Knows Best. Gallico’s novel employs a slightly heightened sense of reality to portray an ordinary life turned extraordinary—a world where each conflict is quickly and easily resolved and even a seeming tragedy can be looked at in a positive light. Though the book takes place in Europe, the idealism of 1950s U.S. society is apparent in Gallico’s novel. Critical reviews for Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris were overwhelmingly positive. Reviewers praised the novel mainly for its charming fairy tale qualities, bittersweet ending, and moral lessons. Gallico was never accused of being preachy, despite the social commentary which runs subtly throughout his story. The novel was short in length, illustrated, and written in deliberately simple prose, so as to make it more easily accessible to the widest variety of readers. Yet, in reading the novel, one may notice Gallico’s none-too-subtle tendency to feminize Mrs. Harris’ dream. The focus is not merely on her seemingly impossible goal to obtain a Christian Dior gown. Rather, the coveted object itself is presented as the embodiment of every woman’s dream. Library Journal summed up this point in a review, calling Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris "a delightful bouquet of dreams and realities for all women and girls who have ever wished for something special" (12/15/58). The novel beckons to its female audience and fosters feelings of empathy from its women readers towards the novel’s several female characters (most particularly the heroine). Upon publication of Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, in the late 1950s, women were generally considered second class citizens in American society. A good percentage of women worked, receiving lower wages than men in comparable employment positions. Additionally, women were faced with a beleaguering second shift of housework and child rearing at a time when the family was considered the most important component in society. Women were forced to live up to an impossibly high standard, set by a predominately white, middle class society. Countless women readers in 1959 could potentially identify with the horny-handed, working class Mrs. Harris. Her trip to Paris in pursuit of a Dior gown represents not only a common woman chasing a lofty dream, but also a form of escape from the monotony of her daily life as a charwoman. Although Gallico purports that Mrs. Harris enjoys cleaning house for her clientele, he also appeals to female readers’ collective desire for something more out of life. Upon first seeing a Dior gown, Mrs. Harris is overtaken by a desire for "feminine physical possession" of "this one glorious bit of feminine finery" (Gallico, 28). Gallico suggests that Mrs. Harris’ feminine instincts and desires are the main driving force behind her journey to Paris. He claims that "deep-rooted feminine yearning" is responsible for Mrs. Harris’ tenacity in ultimately fulfilling her desire (61). After all, asserts Gallico, "buying a Paris dress was surely the most wonderful thing that could happen to a woman" (97). Mrs. Harris’ trip to Paris for this purpose represents a form of escapism. Escapism is a common device often exploited in bestsellers. This can be seen today in the popular market of romance novels, which are usually intended to achieve the same effect of escapism with readers.Besides gender issues, social class and its implications on individual lives is a significant theme throughout the book. With his working class heroine, Gallico obviously appeals to such members of society who, like Mrs. Harris, live "a life of never ending drudgery" (Gallico, 12) and yet are able to do well for themselves with what little opportunity they have. Additionally, Gallico’s novel features the character Mademoiselle Petitpierre, a Dior model flung unwittingly into the uppercrust world of wealth, pretension and high fashion. Through Mlle. Petitpierre, Gallico extols the virtues of middle class society and chides the snobbery of the wealthy. (It is ironic to note that Gallico himself was extremely wealthy and residing in Monte Carlo, Monaco concurrently with the publication of the novel.) Gallico presents Mlle. Petitpierre as a young woman with simple tastes and modest desires: "What she desired more than anything else was somehow to be able to rejoin the middle class from which she had temporarily escaped, marry someone for love, some good, simple man, who was not too beautiful or clever, settle down in a comfortable bourgeois home and produce a great many little bourgeois offspring" (78-9). One of the most poignant scenes in the novel occurs when Mlle. Petitpierre willingly helps Mrs. Harris clean a house, and a deep bond is formed between the two very different women. In her marriage to Monsieur Fauvel, a young auditor, at the end of the novel, Mlle. Petitpierre stands as a paragon of middle class virtue—a character to whom many of Gallico’s readers could undoubtedly relate.Mrs. Harris herself is a character especially easy to love. Gallico’s characterization of the heroine is almost a caricature of sorts. It is hard to imagine a woman who has endured so much hardship (widowhood, hours of toil at work, low pay) as being so generous, open-hearted and endearing to everyone she meets. Yet, Mrs. Harris possesses all of these qualities and more. She is sassy, gregarious and perpetually positive, always quick to see the bright side of any situation. Mrs. Harris is a woman that readers can genuinely care for—a character for whom it is easy to develop strong feelings. The Cockney-accented charwoman became a beloved Gallico staple following in the successful wake of Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. The novel was followed by three sequels, written by Gallico over the ensuing sixteen years.The bittersweet, yet ultimately happy ending of the novel teaches a moral lesson about the more important aspects of life. Mrs. Harris’ beloved Dior dress is damaged in a fire, but rather than getting upset over her personal tragedy, she puts it into perspective by instead remembering how many lives she touched in Paris and how many dear friends she made during her journey there. As the novel concludes, she reflects fondly upon "the city that had bestowed upon her such a priceless memory treasure of understanding, friendship and humanity" (Gallico, 157). Mrs. Harris has a magical quality about her that, while overly sentimental and not very realistic, is nonetheless irresistible to readers. The notion that one aging charwoman could be single-handedly responsible for bringing a young couple together in love, while unwittingly saving not one, but two careers in the course of a week may seem preposterous to more cynical readers. Yet, Gallico’s novel obviously struck a chord with fans and critics alike. Many critics were quick to point out the obviously unrealistic plot, but admittedly overlooked the more implausible elements of the story when reviewing it. Their emphatic response helped Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris to sell strongly, particularly in its first year of release. By the end of August, 1959, just nine months after its initial publication, it had sold over 70,000 copies at the reasonable price of $2.50 each (Publisher’s Weekly, 8/31/59). It was eventually translated into several foreign languages, including French, Swedish and German. The book is still currently in print as of 1999, a testament to its lasting popularity and universal appeal.The escapism offered by Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris and its delightful departure from reality seem an anomaly when the novel is contrasted with other bestsellers of the same year. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris shared the annual bestsellers list with books by such well known authors as James Michener (Hawaii), Boris Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago), Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita), and D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover). The latter two of these four novels stand in particularly stark contrast to the wholesome, uplifting themes presented by Gallico in Mrs. ‘Arris. Both Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were quite controversial when first published, and their places on the annual list can be at least partly traced to that controversy. The opposite is true for Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. Though it touched on issues construed with gender, class, and human relations, it caused anything but controversy. Rather, it gained popularity because of its lack of controversy and its mass appeal to all ages.Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris was made into a TV movie in 1992, nearly 35 years after its first publication. Though the movie was seen as dated, unrealistic and almost cloying in its sentimentality, it was nevertheless enjoyed by many viewers as a welcome break from the harsh realism of more modern story lines. The movie’s lack of sex and violence set it apart from others by making Gallico’s story appear more of a fairy tale than a simple work of fiction. The simplicity is precisely what makes it so unique in today’s society. The novel’s reputation has remained notably constant over the years. It was, and still is, widely considered by readers and critics as a "heartwarming, engaging novelette" (Bookmark, 12/58). The public’s reception of Gallico’s work, like Mrs. Harris’ determination to have her Dior gown, appears constant and unwavering and is guaranteed to last.Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris is one of the most popular of Paul Gallico’s 41 novels, even today. Its lasting popularity, in spite of the fact that it was published over forty years ago, can be accounted for in several ways that we have seen. The simplicity, universal appeal of themes and positive moral lessons that can be gleaned from the novel are still as applicable in modern society as they were when it was first published. The characters are easy for readers to relate to, even though the situations in which they find themselves tend to reflect a heightened sense of reality rather than a completely realistic one. Overall, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris is a pure, happy story that is able to transcend time and place, to the delight of readers everywhere.Works Cited:|
Gallico. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. New York: International Polygonics, Ltd., 1989.
Justice. Bestseller Index.
Library Journal (12/15/58).
Publisher’s Weekly (8/31/59).
|Photograph and signature of Paul Gallico||S1img19990508133729.jpg|
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