*Starred Review* Kaplan (The Interpreter, 2005) recounted her revelatory passion for all things French in French Lessons (1994). She now offers uniquely discerning portraits of three very different yet equally trailblazing American women whose “lives were transformed by a year in France, and who, in turn, transformed the United States.” An elegant, socially well-connected book lover and “keen observer of beauty,” Jackie Bouvier Kennedy was a Vassar student when she went to France in 1949 and found her true home. As Kaplan follows Kennedy to the White House and beyond, she praises her “quiet power and uncanny intelligence” while tracking her lifelong fascination with French art and culture. Leaving her husband and young son behind, Susan Sontag landed in France in 1958 and immersed herself in bohemian Paris and the French literary works that became the foundation for her influential, often controversial writing. Angela Davis’ ardor for French propelled her out of segregated Birmingham, Alabama, to school in New York, then to Paris in 1963–64 as the only African American student in her year-abroad program. A woman of “intellectual intensity” and valor, she became a besieged activist and cause célèbre. Kaplan’s avidly researched, fresh, and astute biographical triptych reveals as much about the evolution of women’s lives as it does about how profoundly these three exceptional Francophiles deepened the American experience. --Donna Seaman
"The #1 nonfiction book to look out for this spring."
(Christian Science Monitor
"An enduring group profile of three influential yet completely different American women, for each of whom Paris played a short but transformative role, over three tumultuous decades. . . . The much-admired Kaplan focuses sharply on three women of successive generations, providing a keen feminist-cultural picture of Paris’s enduring, if varied, impact."
(Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A fascinating group portrait of three different women from three different generations whose trajectories nevertheless converge in one surprising yet significant place: Paris. In this lively, original biographie à trois
, Alice Kaplan shows how time spent living in the French capital and learning about its culture gave each of these sui generis heroines 'her own ideas of what counted'—and how those ideas in turn became an indelible part of the American political and cultural landscape."
(Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Re)
"An eloquent, brilliant, and often moving portrayal of three remarkable women whose personal and intellectual engagement with France transformed them, and by extension America as well. These intimate narratives of Jaqueline Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis feel not only vital, but also necessary to our understanding of their moral, aesthetic and political development, and just as importantly, to our understanding of each as a remarkable, flawed, and complicated human being."
(Dinaw Mengestu, author of How to Read the Air)
"Superbly perceptive. . . . Kaplan is a master at . . . selecting just the right aspect of everyday experience to illuminate an important point she wants to make. . . . Some books are well-written on a sentence-by-sentence basis; you leaf back through the pages to find you've underscored choice lines. Dreaming in French is the sort of book where you (well, I) draw vertical lines next to entire paragraphs. Kaplan produces some exquisite lines, yes, but she is positively incandescent on the level of thoughts and observations."
(Laura Miller Salon
"Lively. . . . The links Kaplan makes between these cultures and these women deliver fascinating insight to the conditions and changes surging through not only these particular lives, but those of Americans in general."
(Michel Basillieres Toronto Star
"Gossip is one of the key pleasures--but far from the only one--to be found in Alice Kaplan’s absorbing new book. . . . It's a book, to some extent, about the desirability of abandoning or attenuating one’s Americanness."
"Dreaming in French
is, in essence a collection of three short, stand-alone biographies. But Kaplan is a talented historian, journalist, and storyteller, and so she's crafted a book greater than the sum of its parts. . . . An informative, well-written work of biographical nonfiction." (Boston Globe
"An elegant and entertaining work."
"In this well-written triple biographical bite of a magical time in the lives of three ambitious women, Alice Kaplan plumbs the cultural vein that enticed a debutante, an intellectual and a political activist to the same smoky streets of Paris."
"Compelling and well-observed portraits."
(Lauren Elkin Daily Beast
"'We will always have Paris': Bogart's classic line from Casablanca could easily be applied to the three American women woven into a highly original triple micro-biography. Beyond their nationality, what could Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis have in common? Each of them spent a year studying in Paris and left the city transformed by it. Documented and written like a novel, this womanly and erudite walking tour is as gratifying as a Woody Allen movie set in Paris."
(L'Amour des Livres
"Kaplan follows these women's singular trajectories in lively and brilliantly lucid prose."