HomeGroupsTalkExplore
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Borrowed Finery

by Paula Fox

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
381959,181 (3.73)40
An astonishing, devastating memoir of a 1930s American childhood. A New York Times Best Book of 2001 Born in the 1920s to young, bohemian parents, Paula Fox was left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage. Rescued by her grandmother, Fox eventually landed with a gentle, poor minister in upstate New York. Uncle Elwood, as he came to be known, gave Paula a secure and loving home for many years, but her parents constantly re-surface. Her father is a good-looking, hard-drinking Hollywood screenwriter (among his credits is The Last Train to Madrid, which Graham Greene declared was 'the worst movie I ever saw'), and her mother, icily glamorous, is given to almost psychotic bursts of temper that punctuate a deep, disturbing indifference. They exercise, probably without even realising it, a sort of drip-drip cruelty, a cruelty by stealth, upon Paula, as they shuttle her from one exotic place to another, from a Cuban sugar plantation to Hollywood to Montreal to Florida, from relative to relative, never spending more than a few moments with her, maybe 2 days, maybe 2 weeks, before they leave her and move on. Paula Fox has a voice of great clarity and simplicity and this is an incredibly powerful, straight-to-the-heart piece of writing. A novelist and children's writer, her adult fiction is currently undergoing a resurrection in the US, admired and lauded by Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and Andrea Barrett, to name but a few, who claim a place for her alongside Updike, Roth & Bellow. Several of her novels, including the most famous, Desperate Characters, a piercing portrait of a Sixties NY couple, are spectacularly back in print in the US, and Ms Fox is being rightly appreciated once again. Offers the same reading experience as Bad Blood - readable, honest, beautifully written, quietly devastating.… (more)
  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)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 40 mentions

English (7)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
What a life! I was enthralled, following the details of Fox’s life, as she was moved about from person to person, city to city, even living in Cuba for a year and a half. Fox is 91 years old, and the book takes place up to the point that she is 21 years old, except for a short section at the end, so the book is not an exhaustive autobiography–probably why it’s called a memoir. Nevertheless, it didn’t feel like a memoir. There wasn’t a strong MDQ driving the book. Occasionally, it is even anecdotal. That said, I was fascinated, both by the events and by her exquisite sentences.

Her mother abandoned her at birth; she was a cruel woman who seemed to blame infant (and child) daughter for the loss of her “spring.” Her father and mother were married, and the father complied with the mother’s wishes. He also seemed to be quite cruel and a severe alcoholic, although as a child Fox was obsessed with him. One of the first times Fox was with her parents, they asked her to order from room service. When the meal came, she realized she had forgotten to order milk and mentioned it. Her father took the tray of food and threw it out the window.

Many people are familiar with some basics of Fox’s life. For instance, when she was 21 she gave birth to a baby girl. Linda was the result of a one-night stand, although Fox had already been married to someone else. Fox despaired of being able to take care of her daughter and gave her up for adoption–only to almost immediately change her mind. She was told it was too late to change her mind (it wasn’t). Eventually, Fox was reunited with adult Linda and they have a good relationship. Linda is the mother of three daughters. Two of the granddaughters Fox has a great relationship with. The other granddaughter through Linda is Courtney Love, who Paula does not think is a good person. It does make me wonder if Love inherited a gene passed on to Linda from Fox from her own horrible mother.

Although I know that an unknown writer can’t publish a memoir that relies on chronology and anecdote in the way that Fox’s can, I did learn many things from her book. Just soaking up her elegant phrasing makes me aspire to write better. Then I also saw that she easily moved forward in time when she wanted to “tie up” an anecdote. With her graceful style, I really had to pay attention to even notice such a move. ( )
  LuanneCastle | Mar 5, 2022 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
We've grown almost blasé about the nasty things mummies and daddies do to their little ones. Fox, however, is made of stern stuff; she is not about to spill her guts willy-nilly over the page. Rather, her tactics are tranquil. A raised eyebrow, perhaps, but no mushy business. She writes as if she were merely flicking through a dusty photograph album. Sometimes, your eye coasts an entire paragraph before you understand its horrible import.
added by Nevov | editThe Observer, Rachel Cooke (Sep 1, 2002)
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

An astonishing, devastating memoir of a 1930s American childhood. A New York Times Best Book of 2001 Born in the 1920s to young, bohemian parents, Paula Fox was left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage. Rescued by her grandmother, Fox eventually landed with a gentle, poor minister in upstate New York. Uncle Elwood, as he came to be known, gave Paula a secure and loving home for many years, but her parents constantly re-surface. Her father is a good-looking, hard-drinking Hollywood screenwriter (among his credits is The Last Train to Madrid, which Graham Greene declared was 'the worst movie I ever saw'), and her mother, icily glamorous, is given to almost psychotic bursts of temper that punctuate a deep, disturbing indifference. They exercise, probably without even realising it, a sort of drip-drip cruelty, a cruelty by stealth, upon Paula, as they shuttle her from one exotic place to another, from a Cuban sugar plantation to Hollywood to Montreal to Florida, from relative to relative, never spending more than a few moments with her, maybe 2 days, maybe 2 weeks, before they leave her and move on. Paula Fox has a voice of great clarity and simplicity and this is an incredibly powerful, straight-to-the-heart piece of writing. A novelist and children's writer, her adult fiction is currently undergoing a resurrection in the US, admired and lauded by Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and Andrea Barrett, to name but a few, who claim a place for her alongside Updike, Roth & Bellow. Several of her novels, including the most famous, Desperate Characters, a piercing portrait of a Sixties NY couple, are spectacularly back in print in the US, and Ms Fox is being rightly appreciated once again. Offers the same reading experience as Bad Blood - readable, honest, beautifully written, quietly devastating.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.73)
0.5
1 1
1.5 1
2 2
2.5
3 12
3.5 4
4 20
4.5 5
5 7

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 182,910,542 books! | Top bar: Always visible