Following in the steps of my beloved Persephone Books, Bloomsbury have re-issued a whole series of marvellous novels from the 20th century in print and on the Kindle. I was particularly thrilled to see The Mrs Harris novels by Paul Gallico, which deal with the adventures of a straight talking English char* in the 1950s, and I promptly ordered them all.
Out of print for years, and the first in a series of four books, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris should be read by every woman that loves fashion. We watch Mrs Harris fall head over heels in love with a Christian Dior couture frock, and head to Paris in pursuit of her dream.
It’s a period piece now, and a wonderful evocation of a world that no longer exists, from the gilt edged salons of the Parisian couture house, to smokey London nightclubs. It was one of my favourite books as a teenager, although it’s terribly sad in a way. (Out of print copies are sometimes found under the title Flowers for Mrs Harris.)
To my shame, I never realised that there was a Mrs Harris Goes to New York or a Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow, but in the pre-internet days, it wasn’t always so easy to find these things out if a book was out of print.
However, Mrs Harris MP is an absolute delight, and I do think that all four books would make a brilliant present for a girl or woman at any age.
* Short for charlady. A very particular breed of working-class cleaning woman, who worked by the hour for different employers, and known for their honesty, graft and good humour.