Breathless: An American Girl In Paris, Nancy K. Miller

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After a brief hiatus for a few English exams, I am back in the game.  This time with a short little memoir by Nancy K. Miller about the years of her young adulthood lived in Paris.

Nancy K. Miller paints the perfect picture of absolute privilege in Paris.  Her memoir of her young days spent in Paris in the 60’s as an ingenue, student, lover, and later wife, tells itself as a story of self-imposed exile from her New York home, overbearing parents, and “good girl” Jewish persona.  Nancy Miller takes us through her adventures and misadventures, lovers, pregnancy scares and bouts of depression, all the while still enamored with a world of Hermès scarves, coffee at Simone de Beauvoir’s favourite cafe, and recited lines from A Bout de Souffle, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.  Miller candidly describes the costs of trying to live the life of the American Parisian, always desperate to become the essence of Jean Seberg.

I took on this memoir because I am really missing Paris – about a year ago today I was walking along on Île de France, taking in the wintry (mostly rainy) splendor of Paris at Christmas.  Already I knew when I opened this book how almost silly and pretentious it was, I wanted to read it anyway thinking on my own romantic inclinations about Paris, my own shallow dreams of wearing a Hermès scarf, reading about the “Lost Generation” on the bank of the Seine, hopefully capturing a Jean-Seberg-essence.  Miller’s indulgences in this memoir are my indulgences.    

Although I was very appreciative that this was a fairly breezy book to read, I was a little saddened that it was more so about the drama of Miller’s own life, and less about the essence of Paris in the 60’s.  But…. at the same time I can’t say that I was totally surprised – after all this is a story about an American girl in Paris, and as much as I am really annoyed by her complete self-absorption, I feel it’s authenticity and refusal to apologize are what makes it worth the afternoon I spent reading it.         

Books Read: 5

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