A trip to Truro led to a most interesting turn for my Paris in July. I recalled a small bookshop in a side street, so of course I had to take a look. A secondhand bookshop with massed ranks of paperbacks lining the staircase and a good few yards of shelves of older hardback fiction upstairs is not to be missed.
There were so many books that I would have loved to provide a new home for but I was horribly restrained and came away with just the one. loudly as the others called, this one called that little bit louder. Love of Seven Dolls by Paul Gallico. The author, that title, the concept – completely irresistable!
The story opens on the banks of the Seine where a young girl, Mouche, is planning to throw herself in.
Why? The war left Mouche an orphan. She dreamed of the stage and so she worked and save until she could come to Paris. But she found that she had neither the talent nor the looks needed to succeed. She looked like the simple country girl she was. And so she found herself at the age of twenty-two with no money, no home, and no friends to help her.
Paul Gallico, as ever the consummate storyteller, sets the scene perfectly.
“Hello there, you with the suitcase! Where are you going and what’s your hurry?”
“It’s cold at the bottom of the river, little one, and the eels and crayfish eat your flesh.”
“What’s the big tragedy? Your boyfriend give you the air? There’s plenty more fish in the sea.”
“Well? Cat got your tongue? Speak up when you’re spoken to.”
Who called Mouche back? At first all that she could see was an empty puppet booth with a sign announcing “Captaine Coq et sa Famille.” Then she saw a puppet. She would see seven, they all came out to see what was going on and to talk to Mouche.
First would be Carrot Top, careworn and caring manager of the show. Later there would be Dr Duclos, a pompous penguin. Mr Reynardo the scallywag fox, a loveable rogue…
Mouche was caught up. She had found friends, and she had found the warmth and magic of theatre of her dreams. such a contrast from the world she had wanted to escape minutes before. She quite forgot that there was a man behind the theatre working the puppets.
A crowd gathered to watch the interplay between girl and puppets. They were charmed, and so was I.
The girl joined the show.
But what of the puppeteer? The man who created such wonderful characters. He was an orphan like Mouche, but he was a troubled and unhappy man who would ill treat his new protegé and the young boy who worked for him?
How can you reconcile the character of the man and the characters of his creations?
How can Mouche reconcile her love for the seven puppets and her distaste for the man who brought them to life?
A wonderful story unfolds, and a resolution seems impossible, but then Paul Gallico brings the story to a conclusion that is unexpected but entirely right.
Along the way is joy, pain, and so many wonderful things are said about life, love, and the simple truths that are so important.
Love of Seven Dolls is both charming and utterly moving.
There is so much I more could say about this book, but I won’t ramble and I will add just three more words: read this book!
(And it would be lovely if someone would reissue it too…)