Paris, 7 a.m

Liza Wieland

Book - 2019

Reimagines the experiences of pre-fame poet Elizabeth Bishop during three life-changing weeks spent in Paris on the eve of World War II.

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Biographical fiction
Historical fiction
New York : Simon & Schuster 2019.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
332 pages ; 24 cm
Main Author
Liza Wieland (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Wieland's (Land of Enchantment, 2015) biographical novel, its title from one of Elizabeth Bishop's poems, focuses on the poet's 1930 admission to Vassar College and experiences in pre-WWII Europe. The real Bishop was a careful chronicler of her life, yet wrote little about 1937, inspiring Wieland to imagine it with a wider lens, particularly Bishop's involvement with a resistance movement and part in conveying two Jewish "orphans" to a Paris convent. Wieland's prose is simultaneously poetic and sparse, much like Bishop's poems. The chapters are short and often skip through time like a stone across water to Bishop's death in 1979. Wieland focuses on Bishop's life-long friendship with poet and mentor Marianne Moore, her sudden losses and lasting grief, addictions and demons, and her love for women. In college, Bishop contemplated what it meant to keep her "eyes open" and attain a deeper vision that could reorder pieces of the past and present into coherence, like a cubist painting or modernist collage, a feat she achieved in writing. Wieland's rendition of Bishop's life aptly and beautifully mirrors that process. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In June 1937, Elizabeth Bishop—not yet the exquisitely precise poet she would become—heads to France after graduating from Vassar and joins a group that spirits Jewish children to convents, where they will be baptized and thus protected from the fate threatening their parents. With a 75,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

With this exquisite novel, Wieland (A Watch of Nightingales) offers a beautifully realized tribute to distinguished American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911–79), tracing her coming of age as a writer and a young woman living in a man's world right before World War II. The bulk of the story is set in Paris in 1937 and 1938, immediately after Bishop graduated from Vassar. She has traveled there with her college roommates, looking for adventure yet finding a city grim with the sense that a second war is inevitable. As she imagines what happened to Bishop during the one year when her journal falls mostly silent, Wieland hews fairly closely to the known facts about Bishop during this period while taking advantage of a gap in her journals to imagine the events here, and we see Bishop in the process of developing her distinctive poetic voice and her celebrated keen eye for detail, character, setting, and emotion. We also see her joining the effort to save Jewish children before it's too late. As with Bishop's own work, the novel is quiet, observational, and reflective, exhibiting its own kind of poetry as it brings its subject's deeply humane, inquisitive, and intelligent sensibility compellingly to life. VERDICT A triumph; recommended for fans of poetry, women's studies, and contemporary literary fiction.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Striking imagery and sharp, distinctive language shimmer in Wieland's haunting fifth novel (following Land of Enchantment), which imagines American poet Elizabeth Bishop as a young woman. It opens in 1930 as the Vassar student struggles with her attraction to women, alcohol's seductive comfort, and her literary gifts. In 1934, she graduates from college and learns that her mother, who fantasized about killing Elizabeth and was permanently committed to a psychiatric institution when Bishop was five, has died. Grappling with loss, loneliness, and longing for the mothering she never received, in 1936, Bishop travels with her friend Louise Crane to Paris despite news of Hitler's rising threat. They rent the apartment of American expat Clara de Chambrun, whose only daughter died at 19. Bishop is ambivalent about Clara's need for a daughter figure, but when the older woman enlists her help in rescuing two Jewish infants being smuggled out of Germany, she can't refuse. Wieland makes scrupulous use of known fact in crafting her fictional narrative, but neither rehashes familiar biography nor attempts literal interpretations of Bishop's poems or life. Instead, her dreamlike juxtapositions of the searing and the sensual probe the artistic process, the power of the mother-daughter bond, and the creative coming-of-age of one of America's greatest poets. Agent: Kerry D'Agostino, Curtis Brown, Ltd. (June) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Reimagines the experiences of pre-fame poet Elizabeth Bishop during three life-changing weeks spent in Paris on the eve of World War II.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The award-winning author of A Watch of Nightingales reimagines the experiences of pre-fame poet Elizabeth Bishop during three life-changing weeks spent in Paris on the eve of World War II. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The acclaimed, award-winning author of A Watch of Nightingales imagines in a sweeping and stunning novel what happened to the poet Elizabeth Bishop during three life-changing weeks she spent in Paris amidst the imminent threat of World War II.June 1937. Elizabeth Bishop, still only a young woman and not yet one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century, arrives in France with her college roommates. They are in search of an escape, and inspiration, far from the protective world of Vassar College where they were expected to find an impressive husband, a quiet life, and act accordingly. But the world is changing, and as they explore the City of Light, the larger threats of fascism and occupation are looming. There, they meet a community of upper-crust expatriates who not only bring them along on a life-changing adventure, but also into an underground world of rebellion that will quietly alter the course of Elizabeth's life forever.Paris, 7 A.M. imagines 1937'the only year Elizabeth, a meticulous keeper of journals, didn't fully chronicle'in vivid detail and brings us from Paris to Normandy where Elizabeth becomes involved with a group rescuing Jewish 'orphans' and delivering them to convents where they will be baptized as Catholics and saved from the impending horror their parents will face.Poignant and captivating, Liza Wieland's Paris, 7 A.M. is a beautifully rendered take on the formative years of one of America's most celebrated'and mythologized'female poets.