Paul Gallico – Mrs Harris goes to Paris

‘Mrs Harris goes to Paris’ is a novel published by American writer Paul Gallico in 1958. It was published in the UK under the title ‘Flowers for Mrs Harris’. I read the reissue as part of the Bloomsbury Group by Bloomsbury publishing, which also includes ‘Mrs Harris goes to New York’.

Mrs Harris is a London char lady, who comes across a Dior dress in one of her clients’ wardrobes. From then on, she has her heart set on owning a Dior dress. After a couple of years of saving, she is able to fly to Paris to fulfill her dreams. Whilst in Paris, Mrs Harris meets new friends and not only her own life is changed by these new friendships. In ‘Mrs Harris goes to New York’ we follow her on a quest to find the father of an abused boy in New York.

For me, this was the book-shaped equivalent of a feel-good-movie. The Mrs Harris stories are comforting and funny without becoming kitschy. The characters are very real, yet at the same time the stories are magical. I was reminded by, and made cheerful in the same way as when I read, ‘Miss Pettigrew lives for a day’ by Winifred Watson, or ‘Cold comfort farm’ by Stella Gibbons.

I have here a small extract from ‘Mrs Harris goes to New York’ that will give you an idea of the writing style and the type of stories these are

A key rattled in the door, it swung open and in marched Mrs Harris carrying her usual rexine bag full of goodness-only knows-what that she always brought with her on her rounds, and wearing a too-long, last year’s coat that someone had given her, with a truly ancient flowerpot hat, relic of a long-dead client, but which now by the rotation of styles had suddenly become fashionable again.
‘Good morning, ma’am,’ she cried cheerily. ‘I’m a bit early this morning, but since you said you was ‘aving some friends for dinner tonight, I thought I’d do a real good tidying up and ‘ave the plyce lookin’ like apple pie.’

I am very happy that I picked this up and look forward to reading more of the Bloomsbury Group series.

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