Publisher: NYRB

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Posted June 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Dud Avocado by Elaine DundyTitle: The Dud Avocado (Goodreads)
Author: Elaine Dundy
Published: NYRB, 1958
Pages: 272
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Sally Jay Gorce is a young American tourist trying to conquer Paris in the late 1950’s. Often compared to Edith Wharton and Henry James who both wrote about American girls abroad, the Dud Avocado is a romantic and comedic adventure unlike anything I’ve read before. A novel that gained cult status quickly, this is a quirky story of a woman hell-bent on really living.

This is really a hard novel to review, simply because I don’t want to give people too many expectations or spoil the plot in any way. The Dud Avocado is the type of novel you go into not really knowing what to expect and just let it take you on a journey. Never knowing which direction Elaine Dundy is planning to take and never really understanding Sally Jay Gorce’s choices. She is a woman that wants to live life to the fullest and experience everything that is out there for her; is it a good idea? Most definitely not, but she picks herself up and continues.  She is going to make her romantic mark on Paris and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

I find myself reminded a little of A Sport and a Pastime in parts but mainly when I think of France, the lust and passion. After that it is more similar to a beat novel with a female protagonist travelling around Paris looking for love and passion. She is smart, sexy, hilarious and frivolous; Sally Jay is sure to charm every man in the City.

At times I enjoyed the journey I was on and then there were times I just felt lost and unsure of what will happen next. The book seems to dip in and out of this feeling of excitement, full of adventures and misadventures, then it just peters out and remains a little flat. The whole novel felt just like Sally Jay’s life, no plans, no direction, just taking it one day after another; we may have an adventure but sometimes we don’t. This was a really interesting tactic, I felt like her life was an enigma and every attempt to try understanding her failed. Real people are never meant to be simple and Elaine Dundy created a truly complex character in Sally Jay Gorce.

Think Breakfast at Tiffany’s if it was written by a beat author. The Dud Avocado is going to take you on a journey without a road map; you won’t know if you’ll ever get to the final destination but you’ll get somewhere. Like I said before, I don’t want to spoil the journey, I think something really interesting has been done here and it is worth looking into.

I’m a little surprised this was set in the late 1950’s, this sort of sexual freedom normally goes hand and hand with the 1970’s. But then again this is France and they have a stereotypical reputation for being progressive. I don’t know enough about social behaviours of the time, especially in Paris but I can’t help but think this novel pretty accurate. The Dud Avocado did have a very authentic feel to it. It’s an unusual novel but it was well worth the experience.