Another book I´m only now finding time to review, but it´s a great one and I want to help spread the word about Elaine Dundy´s often forgotten classic The Dud Avocado. I found it in a charity shop for 90p, I´m always torn between being delighted about a great find or horrified that someone´s given it away. Delight won out, especially in this case.
Sally Jay Gorce is a woman with a mission. It’s the 1950’s, she’s young and she’s in Paris, she´s dyed her hair pink, she’s wearing an evening dress at eleven o´clock in the morning and she’s seldom had more fun. Having made a vow to go native in a way the natives never had the stamina for, she’s busy getting drunk, having affairs, losing money, losing jewellery and losing God knows what. Called to account by Larry, a fellow American who has gone abroad to `become a genius´, she finds that instead of despising him and his familiarity something far more alarming is happening. (Virago Modern Classic)
Sally Jay gets to live in Paris for two years, paid for by a rich uncle. And she´s determined to make the most of her time . She parties for all she´s worth, loses her virginity, has a number of affairs and is generally all over the place. Sally Jay has been compared to Holly Golightly and Bridget Jones and I can certainly see that. The image I had in mind while reading about her escapades was Bridget Jones at Holly Golightly´s chaotic party (in the movie version): Dressed to the nines, drunk and bumbling!
The first part of this book is all party and fun as Sally Jay tries to live more than anyone else. She´s charming and witty and very likable even when she stumbles from problem to intrigue and the story turns darker when her passport is lost and Larry turns out to be not quite so loveable.
The Dud Avocado is a very well-written coming- of- age or rite- of- passage story, Sally Jay is the innocent young American travelling to Europe, revelling in freedom, sexual liberation and just growing up. Despite this labelling, it´s foremost a funny book and I got a lot of nervous glances from other commuters. Don´t read this on the train! 🙂
Some of my favorite passages:
“I could have died of happiness. I went back to Montparnasse and flung myself into a celebration which lasted two nights and from which it took me three days to recover.“
“That’s my answer to the question what is your strongest emotion, if you ever want to ask me: Curiosity, old bean. Curiosity every time.“
“I felt my attention wandering off. It generally does at the phrase “mere child.”“
“A rowdy bunch on the whole, they were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable.“
“The vehemence of my moral indignation surprised me. Was I beginning to have standards and principles, and, oh dear, scruples? What were they, and what would I do with them, and how much were they going to get in my way?“
“The question actors most often get asked is how they can bear saying the same things over and over again night after night, but God knows the answer to that is, don’t we all anyway; might as well get paid for it.“
And hats off to the person who wrote the Virago backflap summary, “go native in a way the natives never had the stamina for” is just a fantastically apt description.