Three magazines are not enough to occupy someone sleepless over the Atlantic, and I actually ended up finishing this book during the flight. Before I talk about the book itself, just look at the cover design.
This is part of the New York Review of Books series (collection), and they always have such pretty design. I particularly love the colors: the dark jungle green combined with the toothpaste green. Plus that sassy little naked girl! That's fun for a public place.
I was drawn to this book because it's about an American girl having a grand time in Paris. Look, I've never had a thing for Paris (something that Andie from The Devil Wears Prada and I have in common besides our alma mater) - and I have really never been attracted to being a starving artist or a starving anything. So I had some trepidation going in that the book might be tedious on that count. Nevertheless, I wanted to read about someone having fun in spite of my demonstrated hatred of fun.
It is indeed about a young college grad who has moved to the left bank and desperately wants "to live". This might be terribly cliche but it's the mid-1950s, so it feels fairly fresh. Sally Jay (what an awful American name, huh?) is kind of an adorable mess, and somehow manages not to be annoying even as she's trying to live life to the fullest in an almost mechanical way. By which I mean, she does this or that because she thinks it would be "really living," not because she has any particular goal in mind.
It's funny and cute and engaging and then it takes the most perfect dark turn that I don't even want to tell you about. I didn't see it coming and then once it arrived it just all fell together. Nevertheless, there's a light, happy ending without too much heartbreak, and really it's just fantastic.
I really enjoyed this book, and what's more, the very short introduction and author's note before and after were actually enjoyable and illuminating! How often does that happen?
I don't know how much it helped me get energized about my own trip; I don't plan to be an impoverished actress or to pick up any married lovers. As a matter of fact I'd be very happy NOT to follow in any of Sally Jay's footsteps. I know, I'm so boring. But it's a fun read and I strongly recommend it.