Overlooked: Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories
I first heard of Mavis Gallant when I became enthralled by a very not-overlooked author, Jhumpa Lahiri. I had just read and cried my way through Unacustomed Earth and found a Guardian article in which Lahiri spoke about her favorite authors. The usual suspects were there: Alice Munro, Chekhov, and Joyce, but who was this name I did not recognize: Mavis Gallant? I ordered Paris Stories (above, published in 2002, it was Gallant’s first printed story collection in the United States, even though she has been writing since the 1940s) and so began a new literary love affair.
Gallant is a Canadian who moved to Paris after quitting journalism in the late 1940s and has lived between there and Europe ever since. For those of you who count Elaine Dundy and James Salter as your favorite chroniclers of 1950s Paris, please add Gallant to the list. Most of her stories are about expats in Europe, but what they really have in common is how they draw you in to the intimate and realistic world of their characters. Pick up Paris Stories and have a glimpse into the lives of: Netta and Jack, a couple running a small hotel in the south of France, Peter and Sheilah, another couple that have seen better days traveling Europe but have settled down to an unglamorous life in Paris, Irina, a grandmother entrusted to take care of her grandson Riri while unbeknownst to him, his mother enters the hospital, not to mention the many many other beautiful, and intriguing stories in Paris Stories.