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Breathless: An American Girl in Paris

2.84  ·  Rating details ·  208 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
In the early 1960s, most middle-class American women in their twenties had their lives laid out for them: marriage, children, and life in the suburbs. Most, but not all.

Breathless is the story of a girl who represents those who rebelled against conventional expectations. Paris was a magnet for those eager to resist domesticity, and like many young women of the decade, Nanc
Paperback, 248 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Seal Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Julie Ehlers
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book's average rating here on Goodreads is not the best, and I suspected it was probably because of the way Miller kept mentioning the influences that led her to move to Paris in the first place: de Beauvoir and Sartre, Colette, Godard. I thought for sure reviewers would think she was acting too intellectual and showing off (for the record, I loved that aspect of the book). But I was wrong--it turns out the low ratings are the result of too much boy craziness and sexytimes. Guess you can't ...more
Rebecca Foster
The many conquests of a female Casanova? Or just your average cross-cultural coming-of-age tale? I wasn’t sure precisely what Miller wanted this book to be, but Francophiles and those who have gone a little wild on a year abroad should like it all the same.

Miller, a CUNY professor of English, titled her memoir of six years’ sojourn in Paris in the 1960s after a favorite Nouvelle Vague film. A young Jewish girl from Barnard University, Miller headed to Paris for her master’s degree with one Frenc
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This chronicles the author's struggle to gain personal independence, find herself, and mature while living in Paris in the swinging sixties. This is an honest and raw memoir. There are times when you don't like the writer very much, but there are other times when she is vulnerable. This may be one of the most truthful memoirs I have ever read and was well worth my time.

I received an advanced reading copy from NetGalley.
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was ok

I was so excited to read this book.
I entered a Goodreads giveaway for it - which I didn't win - I added it to my 'to read list', and then gleefully ended up receiving it as birthday gift. I was so pleased that I had a chance to read about this coming of age story in Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world.

Yeah, I should've lowered my expectations.
I thought this would be all about the cultural clashes and adaptation of an American girl to 1960s France...and it was, to a point. But wh
Jenny McPhee
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing

After graduating from college, I headed to Paris to study contemporary French philosophy -- Lacan, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze -- and semiotics with Julia Kristeva. I spent most evenings contemplating the meaning of life while drinking Scotch in a gay bar in the Marais. I lived in a series of chambres de bonne with a Turkish toilet down the hall and had a boyfriend in New York, a lover in Italy, and ano
MaryJane Brodeck
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Breathless: An American Girl in Paris belongs on the next incarnation of the “Twenty Books to Read in Your Twenties.” At once a riveting narrative and touching memoir, it captures that feeling that most girls in their twenties will relate to—that feeling of desperately trying to become who you’re supposed to become, while tripping over all your best intentions with every step and falling flat on your face.

Read my entire review here:
Denise Morse
May 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately I just could not get into this book at all. The story started off pretty fast and could have benefited from additional character analysis or even discussion. I felt like i was reading book two of a three part series and I missed the entire development. I didn't end up sympathizing with the character or the story as much as I maybe should have. Perhaps it is a generational thing but I would have loved more discussion of the times and less the affairs.
Susan Springer
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
This coming of age memoir of a newly graduated American girl in the 1960s who rebels against middle class expectations and
runs away to Paris should have spoken to me, but I found her story to
be so self-absorbed, so full of bad choices to shock her parents, I wanted to shake her and say, "GROW UP".
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book. I mean, an American young woman moves to Paris in the early 60s to study and get out from under her parents' thumbs and live—what a great premise. And yet, she ends up living pretty much the same pedestrian life in Paris that she would have had she stayed in the states. A disappointment.
Beth Britnell
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Most of the time I spent reading this book, I was mentally yelling at the author for the stupid choices she kept making! I know it was the 60s, early in the decade, and things were different -- but she had all of Paris at her feet and, rather than strike out independently, she settled for the worst possible men to throw herself on. I couldn't figure out why she felt she *had* to have these men. It seemed like she just wanted the drama of a relationship, a fling, but then she kept hanging on to t ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nancy K. Miller’s recent memoir, Breathless: An American Girl in Paris, about her early years in 1960’s Paris seems an unlikely work by a renowned feminist scholar and Distinguished Professor of Literature at CUNY Graduate Center. The title itself, with its reference to “girl” and to Jean Luc Godard’s 1960 film, certainly does not convey a feminist viewpoint. But Godard’s Breathless, a unique French New Wave film for that time, was a definitive break from previous films with its focus on the bea ...more
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this memoir from the publishers and appreciate their kindness.

At the age of 57 I went to Paris for the first time and was utterly bowled over by its beauty. I do understand Miller's infatuation with the city of light. What is so foreign to me is her filtering every experience of Paris through the lens of either literature or films that she thought defined the "French" experience. It was as if she was unable to trust her own experiences as real unless they were compared to th
Minka Guides
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Firstly, thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BREATHLESS is one of those books you wished you'd read when you were 17 and absorbed all the lessons Miller imparts. Except, you know you never would have paid the tiniest bit of notice to trials she goes through/puts herself through, and instead marvelled at the idea of escaping to Paris in the 60s.

Reading this on the other side of 20, all I can do is cringe with a sense of shared experien
Liz Simmons
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Breathless is a memoir written by a young American woman who moves to Paris in the 1960s to try to figure out who she is and what she should do with her life. It was interesting to read about what life was like in Paris in those days, but I wasn't a huge fan of the author's style of writing. There was a sort of detachment for most of the memoir, as if she watched these things happen to someone else, rather than a description of her own life. Maybe that was a mirror of the way she felt at the tim ...more
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book about a week after returning from Paris and was engrossed in the details Nancy Miller offers about Paris in the 1960s. I could visualize her life there and also enjoyed following along on her many doomed romantic escapades (it was the 60s, after all). The one she ended up with the longest had disaster written all over him from the beginning and I hated to see her go down that path, but of course we have all made mistakes in life and love -- especially in our 20s. Her love for Pa ...more
Jan 03, 2015 added it
Shelves: memoir
This book does what a memoir should do. Miller doesn't hold back and reveals some fairly personal and gritty details about her youth in Paris. I didn't keep careful track of the boyfriends and lovers but there were plenty. I admired her courage to make a life there when she was so young, from a protective family and there were none of the technology safety nets that we have today. Her father would have preferred that she marry well and raise a family but I have a feeling he was enormously proud ...more
Gina Riney
Mar 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I did not know this was a memoir when I started reading. I picked it because I am planning a trip to Paris and wanted to read books set in the city. While it gave a nice glimpse of French culture in the 60s and was an interesting journey - I was frustrated by her choices. She was searching for independence from her parents but at the same time seeking their approval and finding out she was turning back toward them.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm not sure why this book has such a low rating on here: It's a frothy and mostly fun read of the constant stumbling blocks in your mid-20s. Yes, Nancy's chaotic time comes from a place of privilege getting to gallivant around Paris, but her privilege doesn't come across as snooty or air-headed--it's just the hand she was dealt.
This is a good book to read while traveling--it goes by quickly and is wildly entertaining.
Jaclyn Day
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This memoir about Miller’s time in Paris during the 1960’s is a quick, delightful, melancholy read. She writes about trying to reconcile her glamorous ideas of Paris with the less-than-glamorous reality and much of the book contains her painfully honest accounts about her various romantic liaisons. Miller doesn’t gloss over her life or her relationships and it makes for a fascinating memoir that reads almost like a novel.
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads, memoir
I'll read just about anything that makes me feel like I'm living vicariously in France. I enjoyed the specific depiction of life in France for a single girl in the 50's and 60's. It's easy to romanticize living abroad, but another thing entirely to make it your life. I did enjoy dreaming about going back, but there were definitely times I wished she would get to the point.
Yuska Vonita
Nov 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, memoir, travel
I received an advanced reading copy from NetGalley.

I love everything '60s. The hives, the Beatles, and rock n' roll misfits. Sixties fashion is classy. What I learned from this book is live life to the fullest and learn from mistakes.
Paris, how can you resist Paris?

This coming-of-age memoir surely taught us a lesson. I found some parts a bit boring but this book is still entertaining.
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it
It started off very good, but eventually I found the book to be more about Miller's failed relationships and struggles around wanting to free herself from her family's influence than about her life in Paris in particular.
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Was this an actual memoir/ bio or was this girl trying too much to seem like a nympho version of Kerouac? Lots of sex, mixed emotions and not enough about Paris or a social study.
Just sex and well, it was the 60s so this seems more like a sex brag tag of her used men and their anatomies.
Eva Zeidner
Trite and predictable...

but kind of a fun summer read. This book had its moments, but for the most part it kind of rambled on, I presume in the manner that the author's experiences actually did since it is a memoir.
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This is an interesting memoir about an American in Paris during the 60's. She has affairs, marries, divorces, meets interesting people and shares her adventures in Paris. Eventually she comes back to the states and give us a synopsis of the rest of her life. Good, not great.
Joan Morin
Aug 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Somewhat interesting from the point of view of behaviors we women sometimes find ourselves sliding into in our 20s. Some pretty bad choices here!
Well-written but left me feeling sad for the author.
Taylor P
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it
You know, at first, this book did not draw me in at all. It seemed detached and oddly formatted.

But, the more I read, the more I saw myself in the author and her experiences. By the end, I was curious to see what would happen with her life.
Heather Funk
Feb 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Ugh, I couldn't even get past the second chapter in this one. Miller may endear herself to the reader later on but really, isn't that something you need to do from the beginning with a memoir? I AM NOT ON YOUR TEAM NANCY. SORRY.
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Nancy K. Miller is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, most recently What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past, winner of the Jewish Journal Prize for 2012, and the story of a quest to recreate her family’s lost history. A well-known feminist scholar, Miller has published family memoirs, personal essays, and literary criticism. She is a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparativ ...more
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