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Borrowed Finery: A Memoir by Paula Fox

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir

by Paula Fox

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
338850,274 (3.79)38
  1. 00
    Fierce Attachments: A Memoir by Vivian Gornick (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: Another memoir with troubled family relationships.
  2. 01
    A Servant's Tale by Paula Fox (cometahalley)

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English (6)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
so many people, so many locations, so many names--somewhat hard to follow. some sections move very slow, others zoom by. ( )
  mahallett | Nov 20, 2018 |
Original brilliance ( )
  Faradaydon | Nov 8, 2012 |
This is an unusual memoir. although she presents a mainly linear narrative, Paula Fox offers glimpses of her life seemingly as they occur to her. The book begins when she is 17, poor, working in a clothes shop. This little vignette sets the tone for the whole book as she offers the reader facts about herself: she was poor; she has just one suit, too warm for LA; it was a discount clothes store. But these facts, although related, are not really what she is telling us - they are more an oblique commentary on her life, or on the people she meets. Sometimes what she wants to convey with this sideways look is obvious, sometimes it is obscure and begs for another, closer, reading.
These episodes, added into the narrative of her life, have the effect of true memory - truggering as it does rememberance of other events, feelings or thoughts. It is this technique that makes Borrowed Finery such a fine book. It feels like a trip inside real memory: there is a sketched-in route, but unexpected landmarks that to the casual eye seem almost out of place, but on reflection prove to be the very crux of the matter. A book to treasure and re-read. ( )
  Goldengrove | Mar 23, 2011 |
Fox writes with a minimalist style that manages to convey the emotion of a child and the insight of an adult. Her writing is seemingly effortless, crafted in such a way that it's easy to read, yet echoes long in the head and the heart.

Fox's tale is a fascinating one, including frequent brushes with celebrity. Underneath, though, is the tragedy of a girl with rootless, careless parents who rarely gets a dress of her own, instead always surviving with hand-me-downs. Sparingly written and evocative, this book captivated me to the end, where she gives up a child for adoption. ( )
  Girl_Detective | Apr 26, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805068155, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Born in the twenties to nomadic, bohemian parents, Paula Fox is left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage. Rescued at the last moment, she is taken into the care of a poor but cultivated Congregational minister in upstate New York. But her parents soon resurface. Her handsome father is a hard-drinking raconteur and screenwriter (among his credits is The Last Train to Madrid, called by Graham Greene "the worst movie I ever saw") who is, for young Paula, "part ally, part betrayer." Her mother, a frightening, infrequent presence, is given to icy bursts of temper that punctuate a deep indifference. How, Fox wonders, is this woman "enough of an organic being to have carried me in her belly?"" "Never sharing more than a few scattered moments with their daughter, Fox's parents shuttle her from one exotic place to another. In New York City she lives with her passive Spanish grandmother. In Cuba she wanders about freely on a sugarcane plantation owned by a wealthy distant relative. In Florida she is left with a housekeeper she has known only for days. In California she finds herself cast away on the dismal margins of Hollywood. Throughout, famous actors and literary celebrities glitteringly appear and then fade away - John Wayne, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maxwell Perkins, Orson Welles, James Cagney, and Stella Adler, to name a few. The thread binding Fox's wanderings is the "borrowed finery" of the title - a few pieces of clothing, almost always lent by kindhearted strangers, that offer Fox a rare glimpse of permanency."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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