Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico

After my last read, which was so heavy and tragic, I felt I needed something lighthearted, sweet, and short to read... So I chose the second in a series of books about British charlady Ada Harris (aka "Ada 'Arris"), Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York. (As you may recall, I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, earlier this fall.)

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York is a delightful, comical, and fast paced read -- which almost reads like a short-story or novella. At 192 pages it could be completed in one sitting, but took me two. It was the perfect read for a quiet holiday weekend.

As the story opens, it is some time after Mrs. 'Arris' trip to Paris and her life has returned to a quiet routine. The first hint of this book's adventure comes when one evening, while enjoying a "cuppa tea" with her friend Violet Butterfield, the sounds carry from the neighboring apartment of "Little Henry" being beaten by his foster parents. Mrs. 'Arris confesses to Mrs. Butterfield that she wishes she could travel to America and find Henry's long-lost father, an American GI. And that doing so she would be able to restore father and son and rescue Henry from his terrible situation... This, Mrs. 'Arris, realizes is fantasy and unlikely to every happen.

But what seems impossible and unlikely cannot stay so for very long in a Mrs. 'Arris novel. Soon it is revealed that one of the couples that Mrs. 'Arris "does for" (i.e. cleans) will be moving back to America and wish to take Mrs. 'Arris with them for a few months; just until they get settled in and the new servants are trained. Of course Mrs. 'Arris jumps at the chance and soon has not only convinced the Schreibers to permit Mrs. Butterfield to come along as cook, but has also plotted out an escape for Henry by stowing him away on the ship to New York. But not everything goes according to plan. Unforeseen problems occur, one of which requires Mrs. 'Arris to beg the help of an old friend from Paris, the Marquis Hypolite de Chassagne, who happens to also be on the ship as he travels to America to be the new Ambassador from France.

The rest of the story is full of adventures as Mrs. 'Arris and Mrs. Butterfield arrive in New York, take care of the Schreibers new flat, try to keep Henry safely out of sight, search for Henry's father, and develop many lasting friendships.

It is no spoiler to say that by the end Mrs. 'Arris brings happiness to those around her, while she herself learns a new lesson before heading back home to London. To complete the happily-ever-after ending that these books require, there is even a hint of a possible budding romance between Mrs. 'Arris and a gentleman... but I will have to wait and read Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament before I know for certain.

Paul Gallico succeeds in his sequel, but unlike the first book I did notice a little more use of language in this story, which was unfortunate. In addition, one of the "bad guys" of the story displays some racial hatred, which was likewise unfortunate and very un-PC, but these were the only objectionable aspects of the book.

On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York as a 3.5 to 4. I liked the story very much, albeit not more than its predecessor. These books are out of print, so it is unlikely you would find them in your bookstore. You may get lucky and find them in your library. I had to track them down through used booksellers online, but was able to purchase them for less than $10 a piece.


BookPsmith said...

I just put this book on my TBR list for 2009. The cover caught me eye but your review sealed the deal. Thank you.

Carrie said...

MORE books I want to read. This series looks like so much fun. Are there more books in the series or two titles only?

Sarah M. said...

There are four total - Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York (not sure why the variation of spelling), Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament and Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow.