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A Fairly Good Time: with Green Water, Green Sky

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  19 reviews
An NYRB Classics Original

Mavis Gallant’s novels are as memorable as her renowned short stories. Full of wit and psychological poignancy, A Fairly Good Time, here with Green Water, Green Sky, encapsulates Gallant’s unparalleled skill as a storyteller.

Shirley Perrigny (née Norrington, then briefly Higgins), the heroine of A Fairly Good Time, is an original. Derided by the P
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by NYRB Classics (first published April 19th 2016)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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lark benobi
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uk
This is the best-written book I've read this year. Not my favorite book, but the book where every sentence was so alarmingly perfect that I needed to stop and give a little gasp and read it again, and maybe once more after that. Sometimes writers who write this exquisitely at the sentence-level are called 'writers' writers' but that's not what I'm talking about. This isn't beautiful sentence-level prose for its own sake. It's not over polished gem-like writing. It's perfect writing. The sentence ...more
She would not have lived in a place partly furnished by strangers. The curtains would have been taken down, the carpets rolled and tied with string and put in the basement for moths to feed on. Here you built a life around other people's leavings--your family's, or people you had never seen but whose traces you might find in provincial museums. You built around a past of glass cases, shabby lighting, a foul-smelling guardian saying, "It is forbidden."

What begins as a whirling, Joycean immersion
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is what you need to know about Shirley Higgins: she’s 27 in 1963, ”a great lump of a Campfire girl” how she saw herself in her father-in-law’s eyes, an ex-pat Canadian living in Paris, prone to helping out both friends and random strangers. Shirley’s also widowed and remarried to Philippe, a very proper and successful French journalist. Here’s what else you need to know about Shirley: ”’. . . when it’s French I’m never sure. I understand every word but do I understand what French means? I m ...more
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We get to know Shirley Perrigny, formerly Higgins, nee Norrington, through a nonlinear jumble of perspectives – her husband, her several in-laws, her assortment of friends and acquaintances, her landlord, her mother, Shirley herself, and a 3rd person narrator who weaves in and out among the characters and is sometimes in Shirley’s head, and sometimes not. All of this is the perfect way to get to know the utterly original Shirley, whose life didn't start out promising - in her first few months of ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All hail Mavis the master. Still need to read Green Water, Green Sky, which I will savor next year.
Lynn Silsby
Nov 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Three stars to A Fairly Good Time. Will set Green Water, Green Sky aside for another time.

Superficially, the main character and setting are similar to The Dud Avocado, which I enjoyed for its humor and because it was fast-moving. Both feature twenty-something, somewhat ditzy expats living in post-war Paris and having a series of misadventures. But this novel's ditzy expat is more dissatisfied and unsettled, and mostly misunderstood and unappreciated by those around her, so rather than riding alo
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I decided to launch to Gallant's works by reading her novels first, and I don't regret it. Both stories are so different but they leave you a strange sort of sorrow.
What struck me the most, as is also noted in the introduction, are the flashbacks which imprint "the weight of a memory on a page." While it reminds of Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, there's an odd detachment from the heavy memory, as if the feelings associated with the memory have been exhausted. There are countless brilliant recoll
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Since there are two novels in this one book, I've averaged the rating--3 stars for A Fairly Good Time and 5 stars for Green Water, Green Sky. The main title is amusing and full of the wit and sharp phrasing I've come to expect from Gallant, but the story as a whole felt needlessly stretched and indulgent in ways that her short stories never are. That is directly contradicted in Green Water, Green Sky, which is pitch perfect in its sublime depiction of the dissolution of sanity and its inevitable ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I got through the first 💯 pages, then decided to give it a miss. It's not a story with much of a plot, but sometimes amusing reflections on life, family, and its ramifications... somewhat dated in style, and too much work to plough through. Perhaps I'll try her short stories next time round.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
S. Walsh
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-books
I read this along with Elliott Holt and A Public Space (a literary magazine in NYC) online book group. We focused on the shorter novel of the two, GREEN WATER, GREEN SKY. Gallant was primarily a short story writer, and these two novels represent her only novels. Due to her dedication to the short-story form, GWGS defies genre—separated into four distinct sections (three were published originally in the New Yorker)—it could read as a quartet of stories, but instead it functions as "a strange, gli ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Shirley Perrigny is a divorced Canadian living in Paris. Calling her “out of sorts” would be kind to her. Her husband has disappeared, her landlady is plotting against her, she has no friends and no jobs. She scrambles through life, disorganized and impractical, trusting the untrustworthy, all the while quoting from her extensive reading. (“At a village of La Mancha, whose name I do not wish to remember . . .” was how she interrupted long stories.) We see the world through Shirley’s eyes and are ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, fiction, w
This review is for AFGT only, as I started the novella but never really made a genuine attempt at it.

I loved this novel. It felt so alive to me, awkward and earnest and depressing and vibrant. It was neither overly romantic nor overly realistic. Despite all the flavor and character, it read rather matter-of-factly. The writing built and built even as the narrative almost fell apart. I enjoyed it very much.
Genevieve Brassard
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 for Fairly Good Time and 4.5 for Green Water, Green Sky, which read like the 1950s offspring of Edith Wharton and Jean Rhys. The shift in tone between the two was notable, with the longer Fairly Good Time more sardonic and disjointed, and the shorter tale more compressed and quietly heartbreaking. Another Canadian woman writer who deserves more attention (thanks NYRB!) 😊
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
The murky nature of the story didn't grab my interest. It worked more like a trick than a necessary ingredient that elevated the material.
Tricia Florence
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very well written. I love the way she writes. Found the story line a bit depressing. Don't need depressing these days.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. I loved this book (particularly AFGT.)
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Canadian genius, hysterically funny.
F Cats
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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Aug 23, 2020
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Sep 06, 2017
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Aug 28, 2020
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Jun 08, 2016
Ben Lawsky
rated it it was amazing
Aug 28, 2020
Brandon L G Taylor
rated it it was amazing
Jun 27, 2018
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Aug 07, 2017
Katie Wilson
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Aug 27, 2020
Heidi De Vries
rated it it was amazing
Sep 25, 2016
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Apr 12, 2017
Maddie Burg
rated it it was amazing
May 21, 2019
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NYRB Classics: A Fairly Good Time: with Green Water, Green Sky 4 28 Apr 27, 2016 06:49AM  

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Canadian journalist and fiction writer. In her twenties, Gallant worked as a reporter for the Montreal Standard. She left journalism in 1950 to pursue fiction writing. To that end, always needing autonomy and privacy, she moved to France.

In 1981, Gallant was honoured by her native country and made an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contribution to literature. That same year she also receive

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