Thursday, April 05, 2012
‘Dreaming in French,’ by Alice Kaplan
Courtesy of Claude Du Granrut
“Dreaming in French” is about the formative year that three ambitious and striking American women — Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis — spent in Paris while in their 20s. Bouvier was there in 1949-50, while attending Vassar and a few years before she met the man who would make her the first lady. Ms. Davis spent 1963-4 in Paris while attending Brandeis. Both were French majors.
Sontag, who spent 1957-8 in Paris, was, at 24, just a bit older when she went abroad. She was on a fellowship from the American Association of University Women. She’d left her husband, Philip Rieff, and their 5-year-old son in the United States, and once back home, she asked for a divorce.
Ms. Kaplan is a professor of French at Yale University whose previous books (“French Lessons” and “The Collaborator” among them) deserve their high reputations. She is alert to how different these women were.