Flowers for Mrs Harris – Paul Gallico – 8/10

“To the gallant and indispensable daily ladies  who, year in, year out, tidy up the British Isles, this book is lovingly dedicated”

I’m not much of a novella reader (although maybe I should change that, because I have very much enjoyed my few experiences thus far), but Flowers for Mrs Harris posed a perfect lunchtime read for the first day of my holiday.

Mrs Harris (or ‘Arris, as she would pronounce it) is a London charwoman who, upon spying two Dior gowns in the wardrobe of one of her clients, finds herself struck down by the desire to own one herself. She scrimps and saves and gets herself to Paris and to the door of Christian Dior. Her mission to own the dress gets her into no end of trouble once she gets there.

This is a very sweet little novella, with just enough seriousness to stop it being twee. The issues with customs, accommodation, lack of French, imperious shop staff and other customers threaten to strike down Mrs Harris’ dreams – but she will not be denied. The ending is somehow awful and wonderful and perplexing all at once – as Jane, to whose review I have linked below, said – “the very thing that the word “bittersweet” was created to describe”.

Mrs Harris is a wonderful character, and I am looking forward to reading more about her in the other 3 books in the series. She is hard-working, honest (while she might fib, she would never tell a lie) and can’t help but see the best in people. In such a simple story, about how dreams can come true, she is refreshingly down to earth (I loved the episode where she rides roughshod over French elegance and manners and convinces two people to act on their hearts’ desire rather than be constrained by The Rules).

“The one and only time that Mrs Harris had ever faced the camera lens was upon the occasion of her wedding to Mr Harris and then she had the stout arm of that stout plumber to support her during the ordeal.”

“Two of Mrs Butterfield’s chins quivered at the impact of this revelation.”

“Mrs Harris felt as eager and excited as a child and mentally apostrophized herself”

A delicious romp through Sixties Paris through the eyes of a most unconventional narrator.

Reviews by other bloggers: Jane at Fleur Fisher, Elaine at Random Jottings, Rachel at Book Snob.

Additional info:
This was a personal copy, purchased in Notting Hill.
Publisher: Penguin, paperback, 128 pages.
Order this from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.
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5 thoughts on “Flowers for Mrs Harris – Paul Gallico – 8/10

  1. Booklover Book Reviews 13 August 2011 at 3:08 am Reply

    I love a narrator with attitude! This sounds like a similar bent to the wonderful novel I read by Muriel Sparks a short time ago, A Far Cry From Kensington (review coming soon). Never read a Gallico, but will be on the look out now…

    • readingwithtea 13 August 2011 at 12:36 pm Reply

      I will have to look out for Far Cry from Kensington – I would also recommend Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (review coming soon!)

  2. Sheila 13 August 2011 at 5:40 pm Reply

    I loved this book! There are others in the series but none as good as this one.

  3. FleurFisher 22 August 2011 at 9:54 pm Reply

    Isn’t it a gem?! I have heard that the others in the series aren’t quite as good, but I do want to meet the characters again.

  4. My Day in Books | Reading Fuelled By Tea 26 December 2011 at 5:06 pm Reply

    […] Later, on the journey home, I bought Flowers for Mrs Harris […]

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