The Great Good Place: American Expatriate Women in Paris

William Wiser, Author W. W. Norton & Company $20.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-02999-4
For the five American expatriate women profiled in Wiser's superb, sparkling group portrait, Paris was a social laboratory in which to lose or remake oneself. Mary Cassatt's fertile relationship with Degas gave way to her sour last years of exile in France, when she progressively lost her eyesight. Edith Wharton, cool-headed observer of society's ironies, flung herself into a dalliance with English journalist Morton Fullerton, who at the time was engaged to his first cousin, while Wharton neglected her own clinically depressed husband. Flapper Caresse Crosby shared the opium highs and sexual excesses of her poet husband Harry, then managed their Black Sun Press after his suicide. Daredevil Zelda Fitzgerald envied famous novelist husband F. Scott, who expropriated her mental breakdown as material for his fiction. Josephine Baker, illiterate teenage chorus girl from St. Louis, came closest to becoming a ``changeling hybrid Parisienne.'' In marvelous vignettes, Wiser ( The Crazy Years ) creates an iridescent prism refracting the City of Light's special alchemy and ambiance. Photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
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