Mrs Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs Harris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico | #audiobook #bookreview | @WFHowes

I’m reviewing my most recent audiobook listen today. As ever, I listened using the wonderful, free Libby App but this is also available on Audible and other audiobook platforms.

About the book(s)

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris: Mrs. Harris is a salt-of-the-earth London charlady who cheerfully cleans the houses of the rich. One day, when tidying Lady Dant’s wardrobe, she comes across the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her life–a Dior dress. In all the years of her drab and humble existence, she’s never seen anything as magical as the dress before her and she’s never wanted anything as much before. Determined to make her dream come true, Mrs. Harris scrimps, saves, and slaves away until one day, after three long, uncomplaining years, she finally has enough money to go to Paris. When she arrives at the House of Dior, Mrs. Harris has little idea of how her life is about to be turned upside down and how many other lives she will transform forever. Always kind, always cheery, and always winsome, the indomitable Mrs. Harris takes Paris by storm and learns one of life’s greatest lessons along the way.

Mrs. Harris Goes to New York: Mrs. Harris is back! A little boy, whose father was a GI, is being ill-treated. So when she is asked to go to New York with one of her clients to keep house for her, she smuggles the lad with her to try to find his father.

My Thoughts

I’ve spent the past week or so enjoying following the rather unlikely adventures of Mrs Ada Harris, a widow and cleaner from London. I know the first book has recently been adapted for cinema in a film featuring Lesley Manville as the eponymous heroine. I haven’t seen that yet but would imagine she’s really good in the role. Juliet Stevenson was narrating the audiobook version I was listening to and of course, as she always is, she was excellent. All the characters seemed so individual and I was never in any doubt as to who was talking.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris was published as Flowers for Mrs Harris in the UK originally and that’s a good title although you don’t really know why till the end. I have to say, I think I prefer the rhyming title though. Mrs Harris certainly has some adventures for a quiet and unassuming char-lady. It was fun following her progress as she works and saves really hard to fulfil her dream to own a Dior dress! Paris didn’t know what hit it when Ada Harris arrives. She doesn’t have much of an opinion of ‘the French’ and they don’t think much of her either! But her straightforward and honest way of doing things soon saw people’s opinions of her change. I liked how she touched people and changed their lives just by being true to herself.

One thing that annoyed me when I was first listening was how everyone seemed to looked down on Mrs Harris. They ‘knew what she was immediately’ or ‘recognised her at once for what she was, a London char’ in quite a snobbish way. There were also a few instances of racist language, particularly in the second book, which I found uncomfortable to hear, especially coming from Juliet Stevenson’s mouth!

In the second book, Mrs Harris and her good friend Mrs Butterfield head off to the United States to work in New York for one of her London clients. Being Mrs Harris though, she concocts a plan to find the American father of the little boy who is fostered and neglected by the family next door to her. Unlikely though it seems, she manages to smuggle the boy on board the ship and with some help from surprising connections from her Paris trip, it looks like she will succeed. I really enjoyed this one too although the plot was quite far fetched.

These are the first two books in the series featuring Mrs Harris and I’d quite like to find out how she ends up in Moscow in book 3. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that she ends up in Parliament in book 4, Mrs Harris MP. She’d make sure things get done properly and probably be a lot more sensible than most of the current MPs! The Mrs Harris books are enjoyable, escapist reads (or listens in this case), full of warmth and charm and Mrs Harris is a delightful creation.

About the Author

Paul Gallico was born in New York City, of Italian and Austrian parentage, in 1897, and attended Columbia University. From 1922 to 1936 he worked on the New York Daily News as sports editor, columnist, and assistant managing editor. In 1936 he bought a house on top of a hill at Salcombe in South Devon and settled down with a Great Dane and twenty-three assorted cats. It was in 1941 that he made his name with The Snow Goose, a classic story of Dunkirk which became a world-wide best-seller. Having served as a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy in 1918, he was again active as a war correspondent with the American Expeditionary Force in 1944. Paul Gallico, who later lived in Monaco, was a first-class fencer and a keen sea-fisherman. He wrote over forty books, four of which were the adventures of Mrs Harris: Mrs Harris Goes to Paris (1958), Mrs Harris Goes to New York (1959), Mrs. Harris, M.P. (1965) and Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow (1974). One of the most prolific and professional of American authors, Paul Gallico died in July 1976. He was married four times and had several children.

3 thoughts on “Mrs Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs Harris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico | #audiobook #bookreview | @WFHowes

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