This first post comes out amidst global uncertainty, so if there’s ever been a time where I have relied on the escapism of books, it’s now. A few days into the new lockdown regime, I browsed my bookshelves for something to read that would bring me cheer. My eyes settled on The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. From what I’d heard, it promised to be a boozy whirlwind of a book, full of joie de vivre, and most importantly, quite the opposite to how I felt at that moment. Perfect.
The Dud Avocado follows the story of Sally Jay Gorce a young American woman who is living in Paris. Her Uncle Roger has kindly funded this on the promise that when she’s home, she won’t tell him anything about it. It’s the 1950’s, Sally Jay’s hair is dyed pink and she is never in the appropriate outfit for the occasion. She is also absolutely determined to live life to the fullest. We see her hop from one bar to another always surrounded by the creatives and artists du jour. She is desperately in love with a married man, until of course she isn’t, when he becomes single again. Her tale is full of mishaps as she lives fast to avoid her worst nightmare – becoming a dull librarian.
There is something incredibly appealing about stories set in Paris pretty much anytime, but especially in the early-mid 20th century. Somehow people survived on love, art and alcohol alone, as if funding your lifestyle wasn’t quite as important as living it. In Dundy’s Paris, the glamour spills off the pages and the conversation sparkles like the jewels on the necks of the women sat in the bar of the Ritz hotel. It’s fun to be part of that crowd, just for a short while, with their endless, blurry nights and devil-may-care attitude.
I fell in love with Sally Jay from the first page. Firstly, that name is just glorious, don’t you think? It’s full of vim, there’s no hiding with a name like that. She’s a real mixed bag too; sometimes silly, sometimes razor sharp, always insightful and extremely modern. For me, this is what makes her real and relatable. Even if you haven’t personally been mistaken as a prostitute whilst having hot chocolate and a croque monsieur in a late night café wearing just a coat over your pyjamas, you probably can relate to being young, making questionable decisions and having a keen appetite for life, plus plenty of cocktails.
Whilst the story appears light hearted on the surface and admittedly the plot may not be the tightest you’ve ever seen, the book does explore topics that feel as fresh now as they would have in 1958 on its first release. In her own droll way, Sally Jay toys with the seemingly eternal question of whether women can indeed have it all. She wants to be an actress, have a sense of adventure, enjoy sex and find love – is that too much to ask? Elaine Dundy was ahead of her time with this now well-covered topic but rather than being too on the nose, these thoughts are handled with humour and vitality.
I really enjoyed this book, it made me laugh and yearn for the days where we can sit outside café bars, just people watching. It’s a champagne-filled tonic for the soul; bubbly, light and delicious, which right now, is just what I ordered… actually, make it a double.
If this sounds like something you’d like, you can buy it here.