”Paris 7 A.M.” by Liza Wieland, Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 2019, 333 pages, $26.99
Elizabeth Bishop will become one of the best and best known American poets of the 20th century. In 1937, she escapes college life for the summer going to Europe traveling especially to Paris to experience what she and her friends hope will be a break from a somewhat sheltered environs of one “Seven Sisters” prestigious colleges, Vassar. They plan to visit museums, art galleries, and dine in the best restaurants.
Little does she know these adventures, which include sailing she’d hoped to have while there, will involve her and her friends clandestine experiences never imagined. Involving saving Jewish infants, using different names, and totally transforming all with new identities.
Usually an ardent journal writer, she doesn’t write anything about events taking place, against a promise made to a professor to write daily.
Her clandestine affairs, her mother’s alcoholism and other early childhood experiences are rekindled as tensions increase. Threats of war ignite, as the world outside plunges into instability.
The author, Liza Wieland, winner of the Robert Penn Warren Award for 2017, and recent novel Land of Enchantment, finalist for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize, draws readers into a world in which some of its countries’ leaders have lost sensibility and humanity. While Bishop and other friends, risk life to save lives of others, the most vulnerable, infants and children in order to create a semblance of what is honorable and good n the world.
Through these events Bishop creates a poem, not written in the book, but read at a gathering at the request of a professor from Vassar, which is now famous and can be found online or amid Elizabeth’s other works. It is the novel’s title.
Readers won’t be the same after having read this pulsating, heart-wrenching novel by Liza Weiland.