After the dismal ending of Gallico’s acclaimed Snow Goose, I had sworn him off forever. But when I saw his Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris at our school library I just couldn’t resist. It’s the story of Ada Harris, a London charwoman, making the best of her widowhood by cleaning other people’s apartments. One day she opens the closet of one of her wealthy clients and sees a Dior dress hanging there. Suddenly, beyond all reason, she knows she must have one of her very own.
Her efforts to make her dream come true are only the beginning of this charming story. It could almost be categorized as a “grown-up” fairy tale because wherever she goes Mrs. Harris seems to sprinkle fairy dust over those she meets. YET she’s very realistically drawn (missing teeth and all!) and the book is fraught with painful setbacks.
As I read the book I wondered if it would have been ignored by today’s publishers. After all its emphasis on feminine longings (to own a Dior creation) or to be married instead of have a career (a dilemma of one of the book’s characters) just doesn’t fit into a culture dominated by feminism. But I appreciated Gallico’s handling of these themes. He had a gift for making me care very much about the people in the book. I inwardly shouted “Bravo!” as they each took steps forward to help others and became better for it themselves.
In the end Mrs. Harris’ yearning for the dress is secondary. The friendships that are made because of her quest are what change her life forever. This book was a delight from start to finish.