Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow, by Paul Gallico

This was the last book in the Mrs. 'Arris series, and I was a little reluctant to read it, because it did feel like I was saying goodbye to an old friend.

Mrs. 'Arris, the incurable romantic that she is, has gotten herself involved in another crazy idea. One of her clients, Mr. Lockwood, has fallen in love with a Russian tour guide named Lisabeta, but is not able to see her due to lots of bureaucratic red tape. Once she finds out about this, Mrs. 'Arris immediately launches into a fantasy: Wouldn't it be great if she could go to the USSR, find Lisabeta, and bring her back to London for a reunion?

Keep in mind, though, that Mrs. 'Arris is a charwoman, working for low hourly wages, and does not have the funds to save for a trip to Moscow. Keep in mind, too, Kittens, that this story takes place when the USSR still existed. The KGB figures prominently in the plot.

However, fate intervenes. Mrs. 'Arris entered a raffle, and won a trip for two to Moscow. She takes this as a sign that the Lockwood-Lisabeta reunion must occur. She convinces her best friend, Mrs. Butterfield, to go with her.

Through a series of mixups, two interesting things occur. First of all, Mrs. 'Arris and Mrs. Butterfield are assumed, by the KGB, to be spies. Secondly, Mrs. 'Arris is believed to be royalty, with Mrs. Butterfield as her handmaiden. These two mixups lead the duo on an interesting series of adventures in Moscow, which eventually culminate in their arrest by the KGB for reading religious propaganda in the middle of Red Square.

Mrs. 'Arris's adventures have always been a bit on the farfetched side, but Paul Gallico makes them believable. Out of the four books in the series, this is probably the most serious one. After the arrest, you wonder how Mrs. 'Arris and Mrs. Butterfield will get themselves out of this one.

This was also an interesting commentary about life in the USSR at the height of the Cold War era. As someone who never really lived through or understood that era (I was 15 when the USSR broke up), I thought it was a good insight into the deep workings of the KGB and the Kremlin.

Sadly, this was the last book in the Mrs. 'Arris series, and while it was a satisfying conclusion, I was also sad that I would not be reading any more books about this impeccable, adventurous charlady. Still, I think four books is a good limit for this series; there aren't too many sequels to dilute the spirit of the books. Besides, what other adventures could Mrs. 'Arris get herself into?

***This is the latest entry in my 100+ Book Challenge, as well as my Support Your Local Library Challenge. Click on the buttons in the sidebar for the complete lists!***


gramee said...

oh you know that pup will grow on me..
i have enjoyed your blog..it took me a little while to explore it. i love reading.

Aileigh said...

I just asked Cammie to review a similar memoir that was written by a friend of the family. This one seems like a good read. Only, I need to wait until my pregnancy hormones are all cleared out! I cry...easily! :)

Aileigh said...

Whoops... I meant to post that after "The Middle Place" review. Sorry...Mommy brain kicking in! LOL