4 books of homes away from home, brought to you by us at 4th Estate.
‘Thousands are sailing, Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity, Draws tickets in a lottery’
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
The Dud Avocado is the ultimate Gap Year novel: essential reading for any teenagers setting out to find themselves. Its charming heroine Sally Jay Gorce is a young aspiring actress in Paris. She finds in the city ‘all the gaiety, glory and sparkle I knew was going to be life’, and it is ‘gaiety, glory and sparkle’ that fizzes from every page of this laugh-out-loud-funny novel. Gorce learns the hard way that dyed pink hair does not make for an instant personality change, but a good long time gallivanting around Paris’s bars and cafes – wearing ball gowns in the middle of the day if the laundry situation requires it – just might prompt a bit of growing up. Dundy’s novel is a hymn to youth, to happy growing up, and to the role a foreign city might play in this process, while always preserving the feeling that that “the world is wide, wide, wide and we are young, young, young, and we’re all going to live forever.”
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
This novel – the original inspiration for the much-loved musical Cabaret – gives us a window into 1930s Germany, a world that is now lost, and even then was horribly aware that it is about to be so. Powerfully drawn characters teeter on the edge of extinction: ‘divinely decadent’ Sally Bowles dances frantically and alluringly across the pages, while Ishwerwood’s infamous landlady, Fraulein Schroder, tells tales of lodgers, who have already said their goodbyes to Berlin, from looking at the stains and spillages they leave behind, and Peter and Otto, struggle to accept their homosexuality in light of the rise of the Nazis. A beautifully-written, intensely evocative description of Isherwood’s experiences as a foreigner in Berlin.
Miss Garnet’s Angel by Sally Vickers
Miss Garnet’s Angel is a novel as twisting and turning as a Venetian street. Different narrative threads intertwine: the heroes of ancient Jewish literature influencing the life of one retired schoolteacher, archangels cross paths with a couple accused of jumping the queue for a taxi. There is however one constant: a quiet but passionate love affair with Venice itself, with its ability to facilitate such odd juxtapositions. Miss Garnet does what we all dream of and moves to Venice for the winter. Her life there is an advertisement for a good city break, as her cold English heart is gradually warmed by Venice’s people, beauty, art, and unexpected angels.
A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
“This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy…” Much has been written and dreamt up about Paris in the 1920s, but A Movable Feast is an invitation to see it directly through the eyes of one of its causes célèbres. Hemingway welcomes the reader to the feast that was his Paris – to slurp oysters, to quaff wine, to shoot feral pigeons when oyster funds run low, to hobnob with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. This short, unforgettable book is a delectable, endlessly enjoyable treat, which will have you eyeing up Eurostar tickets instantly.
Words by Lettice Franklin
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