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.
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.