The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

The Dud Avocado - Elaine DundyThe Dud Avocado – Elaine Dundy
NYRB Classics, 2007
(first published 1958)
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The Dud Avocado is about the adventures of a young American girl in Paris called Sally Jay Gorce. She slowly discovers her freedom in the unrestrained environment while she associates with other young Americans and artists. Sally is discovering her freedom: she dyes her hair pink, she walks around in an evening dress before lunch, she has sexual encounters with several man for whom she does not necessarily have any feelings. She feels empowered, but is also clearly a little lost and scatter brained. And while as a reader you can appreciate her independence, you are at the same time  a little apprehensive of some of the people she becomes entangled with.

Last year, Bina highly recommended this title. And I admit, I had high expectations when I started this book. Maybe that is why I was not completely convinced. Yes, Sally Jay Gorce makes astute observations, that are also very humourous. Take these three observations, for example. Who can resist smiling and nodding vigorously while reading them?

“they were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable.”

“the question actors most often get asked is how they can bear saying the same things over and over again night after night, but God knows the answer to that is, don’t we all anyway; might as well get paid for it.”


“The vehemence of my moral indignation surprised me. Was I beginning to have standards and principles, and, oh dear, scruples? What were they, and what would I do with them, and how much were they going to get in my way?”

Sally Jay Gorce is a lively, witty and very loveable heroine. But I admit, I got a little tired of her after a while. I struggled through the middle part and it was only in the last 40 pages or so did I begin to appreciate the story again. But my hesitant liking of this story may also be due to the time at which I read it. I can imagine reading this by the poolside with a lot more pleasure than in the little hours left in between writing a thesis.

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7 thoughts on “The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

  1. Sandy

    She seems like she is just a wee bit self-indulgent? Sort of like a version of Elizabeth Gilbert? But that is probably my mood speaking. I’ve not been at my most patient lately!

  2. Jenny

    Hahahaha, I got tired of her too. She had the occasional very very incisive and funny remark (as you observed), but there weren’t enough of them to keep me fond of her all the way through the book.

  3. Megan

    Sally sounds like an interesting character. Too bad it sounds like she can’t quite carry the book, though.

    I think if I were in your position squishing in pleasure reading in between academic work, I would have super-high standards for books. Nobody likes to waste the time reading a “just okay” book in those precious few pleasure reading hours! Hope your next read is much more unambiguously satisfying. 😉

  4. Carolyn

    I did read this book by a poolside, this April in Florida! I found it lagged a little in the middle too, though overall it was pretty good, Sally Jay talks like a combination of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Raymond Chandler’s noir detective Philip Marlowe, I thought. I enjoyed her adventures more when they seemed to be going somewhere and weren’t entirely random. It was the author’s first novel though and she hadn’t really tried writing before, she’d been an actress. So probably writing from her own experiences, which explains the wandering wobblyness of the plot. I think I read that her husband at the time, Kenneth Tynan, a well-known theatre critic, was jealous of her success because he was supposed to be the only writer in the marriage! But coming from the stage she at least knew how to write snappy dialogue.

    (And hi again, Iris!)


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