I decided to start a little book review series. At the end of the day, I am an avid reader who works in the book industry and writes a blog, it was just a matter of time before I decided to write about books. So here it goes, my first Books on the Bus, Reading Suggestions for your Commute, episode 1!
The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, was an impulsive purchase prompted by an unusually long commute; I was coming back home from Fulham, my bag sadly bookless; I stumbled upon the little gem of a bookshop that is Nomad Books on Fulham Road and thanked the gods for giving me an excuse to buy yet another book. Was there a better title to start this series? I think not.
Despite the odd title, The Dud Avocado is, quite simply, a novel about a young woman growing up. It follows the adventures of Sally Jay Gorce, an American living in Paris in the Fifties.
“Oh, to be young and in love in Paris!”The lady in the bookshop
Sally Jay, who is also the engaging voice narrating the story, had me immediately hooked. The first time we meet her, she’s wearing an evening dress on a weekday morning. All her clothes are still at the laundry, she hasn’t had a chance to pick it up yet because they close from noon to three, which is really the only time she’s up and around!
She describes herself as ‘hellbent for living’: she wants love, fame, success, art, sex. Her adventures unravel before our very eyes: she draws the reader in with her witty remarks, her impulsive decisions and her fresh naivety. She is good at heart, hungry for life and new experiences, slightly disaster prone, a bit like a contemporary ‘adorkable girl’, except free of the most saccharine details; she is the star of the book.
We celebrate when her acting career progresses and she gets the lead role in a play; we frown at her naivety and we worry when it gets her into trouble, like an older sibling would. “You sure about that, Sally Jay?’ we think in dismay when she agrees to attend a dinner at her ex-lover’s house, Teddy, accompanied by her new romantic interest, Larry.
Even when confronted with burning embarrassment or unrequited love, Sally
Jay goes on in her quest for more life, more experiences: nocturnal lonely
walks, long nights of debauchery in Montparnasse and impromptu holidays with
almost strangers. More than anything, Sally Jay fears stillness.
Even if not relatable to everyone as a character, she is instantly charming, a (quite literally) stumbling heroine who’s capable of grasping the readers’ attention and keep their eyes glued to the page.
This edition is a paperback with flaps, handy if you cringe at the sight of dog eared books, and 321 pages long, good for a medium size bag; the publisher is Virago Press, the ‘outstanding international publisher of books by women.’They are notorious for the high editorial quality of their list and their beautiful covers. This particular volume is part of a re-edition, in occasion of the 40th Anniversary Virago Modern Classics, so it will look particularly snazzy in your hands.