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Katherine Bermingham

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1990. 198pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-807-3 (cloth), $29.95,0-88750-808-1 (paper), $15.95

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Louise Reimer.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

Through the kindness of a philan­thropic uncle, twenty-five-year-old Katherine Bermingham set off in the summer of 1923 to spend a year in Paris, completing her studies in costume design and touring the sights of Europe. A Winter in Paris is a collection of her letters home to her family in Canada. Part autobiography, part travelogue, her accounts range from the everyday to the remarkable, from the weather and meals to an audience with the Pope in Vatican City. All are related with a mixture of awe and exuberance. Her letters also offer a window on her relationships with her family: her responses to her father's admonitions about overspend­ing and keeping late hours, for example, are tinged with an affectionate toler­ance.

Chatty and breezy in style, the letters are easy to read. The author's effusiveness, particularly her penchant for superlatives, no doubt reflects her state of mind, but tends to become tiresome. The best autobiography sparks an emotional connection between reader and subject. Unfortunately, A Winter in Paris fails to accomplish this. By the last of her letters, we still remain oddly distanced from Katherine, feeling a bit as though we have read the letters of a stranger.

A marginal purchase, of interest primarily to readers with a taste for nostalgic reminiscence.

Louise Reimer, Edmonton Public Library, Edmonton, Alta.
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