Borrowed Finery: A Memoir (Paperback)

A Memoir

By Paula Fox

Holt Paperbacks, 9780805071849, 224pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2002



Born in the 1920s to nomadic, bohemian parents, Paula Fox is left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage, then cared for by a poor yet cultivated minister in upstate New York. Her parents, however, soon resurface. Her handsome father is a hard-drinking screenwriter who is, for young Paula, "part ally, part betrayer." Her mother is given to icy bursts of temper that punctuate a deep indifference. How, Fox wonders, is this woman "enough of an organic being to have carried me in her belly"?

Never sharing more than a few moments with his daughter, Fox's father allows her to be shuttled from New York City, where she lives with her passive Spanish grandmother, to Cuba, where she roams freely on a relative's sugarcane plantation, to California, where she finds herself cast upon Hollywood's seedy margins. The thread binding these wanderings is the "borrowed finery" of the title-a few pieces of clothing, almost always lent by kindhearted strangers, which offer Fox a rare glimpse of permanency.

Instantly embraced by reviewers and readers as a classic, this astonishing memoir of a writer's highly unusual beginnings is unforgettable.

About the Author

Paula Fox is the author of five novels, including "Desperate Characters," "The Widow's Children," and "Poor George." She is also a Newberry Award-winning children's book author. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Praise For Borrowed Finery: A Memoir

A New York Times Editor's Choice

National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee

"[A] singular, unsentimental memoir of her formative years."--Chris Lehmann, Washington Post Book World

"Restrained yet unsparing . . . Fox is an accomplished writer, with a gift for penetrating to the heart of complex feelings and complicated situations."--Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times

"The memoir has a cumulative power. . . . You feel you've been privy to something memorable and weighty: the birth, however difficult, of an artist's--a woman artist's--sensibility."--Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine

"One of the most impressive books of the year."--Gerald Howard, The Nation

"Pointillist in detail, lapidary in method and brutal in effect, Borrowed Finery is an eloquent, disturbing memoir-- and the perfect bookend to the author's powerful novels."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times