Margaret Vandenburg An American in Paris

ISBN 13: 9781573441070

An American in Paris

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9781573441070: An American in Paris

An American in Paris introduces Henrietta Adams, a young foreign correspondent assigned to report on the burgeoning artistic elite of Paris. In the process, Henrietta discovers romantic intrigue, along with an international art theft plot that implicates none other than Picasso. She finds a charmed life that would have been unimaginable in America at that time.

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Review:

It's 1925, and Henrietta Adams (christened "Henri" early in the novel, in a conscious evocation of Henry Adams) is a breathless girl in Paris, ostensibly engaged in art journalism for the American magazine that is funding her visit, but in fact seeking sapphic embraces in Natalie Barney's salon of aristocratic inverts and Gertrude Stein's more high-minded gatherings. Acquaintance with Hemingway, Picasso, Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, and other luminaries helps Henri round out her education. By night, she explores lesbian clubs in masculine attire, searching for an elegant woman to love. Despite some fine writing, especially in the second half of the book, An American in Paris has two serious flaws. Margaret Vandenburg has not picked up on the formal diction or manners of the early 20th century. She depicts Stein, for example, as a sort of slangy softball dyke, yelling across the room, "Hey Alice," and other anachronisms, annoying to anyone familiar with the literature or history of the period. Also, at times, the book can read like a Platonic dialogue, an excuse for discussing ideas rather than a fully fleshed-out work of fiction with complex, faceted characters moving through a carefully observed world. This improves over the course of the novel, however, and readers who press on past halfway will find themselves staying the course and wishing Henri could get a little more illicit knowledge of the Parisian underworld before returning to Puritan America. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Margaret Vandenburg is Associate Director of the Writing Program at Barnard College of Columbia University.

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