Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Borrowed Finery

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir by novelist and children's book author Paula Fox was published in 2001 and is 210 pages. Borrowed Finery consists of a series of well written recollections of many brief episodes from her life as a child to a teen. These memories are presented without any analysis or self pity. "By chance, by good fortune, I had landed in the hands of rescuers," she writes, "a fire brigade that passed me along from person to person until I was safe." It wasn't until after I read the book that I learned she is Courtney Love's grandmother, and Linda Carroll, a famous therapist, is the child she gave up for adoption. Borrowed Finery was chosen as's Best of 2001. If you enjoy biographies, this is recommended.

From Amazon:

"In this elegant, wrenching memoir, Paula Fox looks at her childhood with the same detached acceptance of life's arbitrary cruelties that informs such acclaimed novels as Desperate Characters. Born in 1923, she was abandoned at a Manhattan foundling home by her alcoholic father at the insistence of her panic-stricken, 19-year-old mother. Paul and Elsie Fox were in no way prepared to take on the responsibility of a child, although they couldn't leave her alone either. Fox's austere narrative unflinchingly describes the couple swooping down on their daughter, who was being raised in upstate New York by a kindly minister, for visits that were as alarming as they were intermittent. For reasons best known to themselves (Fox does not attempt to analyze their motives), they removed her from the minister's home when she was 6, then bounced her among relatives, schools, and their own disordered care for the next 12 years, from Hollywood and Long Island to Cuba and Montreal. The restraint with which Fox describes these traumas is a reproach to all those maudlin memoirs of family dysfunction that have been so prevalent in recent years. She demonstrates that you can write about painful experiences honestly without wallowing in self-pity, and her prose here is as perfectly calibrated as it is in her novels. Thank goodness that this sad story is leavened by a running counterpoint of short passages showing young Paula discovering the pleasure of words and the power of literature. Though she too had an unwanted baby at an early age, the book closes with a moving scene of the author's reunion with the daughter she gave up for adoption. --Wendy Smith "


"For a moment the street was transformed into a familiar room in a beloved house."

"His excuses were made with a kind of fraudulent hardiness, as though he were boasting, not confessing. His handwriting, though, was beautiful, an orderly flight of birds across the yellowing pages."

"He said, 'Ah, well... people who've been parceled out and knocked around are always returning to the past, retracing their steps.' "

"My life was incoherent to me. I felt it quivering, spitting out broken teeth."

"What I had missed all the years of my life, up to the time when Linda and I met, was freedom of a certain kind: to speak without fear to a woman in my family."

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