Sunday, July 11, 2010

Love of Seven Dolls by Paul Gallico

The Love of Seven Dolls the story of Mouche, a scrawny, beaten down girl from the Provinces, who comes up to Paris looking for a better life, but finds only harshness and brutality. She is a stagestruck girl hoping to find stardom, but in reality has no talent, she can't dance, can't sing, and a skin and bones appearance that leads one theatrical manager to call her "that little plucked chicken." She has no appeal to the men either in the audience or behind the curtains, even those who would normally leap at the chance to take advantage of a naive and vulnerable girl don't want her.

Finally Mouche has to face reality. She has three choices--starvation, prostitution, or death. She opts for the latter, but as she is about to throw herself in the Seine a voice speaks to her out of the darkness.

The voice belongs to Carrot Top, a red-haired leprechaun puppet, one of the stars of a street carnival. He coaxes the despondent girl over and engages her in conversation and introduces her to his fellow puppets: Gigi , a spoiled blonde beauty, Reynardo, a sly red fox, Alifanfaron, a gentle, slow-witted giant, Dr. Duclos, a pompous British penguin wearing a pince-nez, Madame Muscat an opinionated old woman, and Monsieur Nicholas, a kindly old toymaker. These are the seven dolls of the title and Mouche, captivated by all these dear and diverse little personalities, forgets her own woes and talks to them like a trusting child, as if they were real people not puppets. This charms the passersby and Mouche is invited to join the troupe. The act goes on to become a popular novelty act that moves off the street into theatres.

But she has to contend with the master puppeteer the tyrannical Capitaine Coq, a.k.a. Michel Peyrot, a cold, cynical, cruel, emotionally-scarred man who has never known or shown love in his life. He hates innocence in anyone or anything and is driven to destroy it whenever he encounters it. Thus, this naive little waif who so enchants his audiences, becomes a prime target, and he comes, drunk and brutal, into the room where she is sleeping after a show and rapes her, taking her virginity without a kind word or caress.

But Mouche remains pure of heart, and when the act is booked into a theatre she attracts the honorable attention of a handsome acrobat and must decide whether to marry him or stay with her beloved puppets and find out whether Capitaine Coq can be redeemed by love.

If all this sounds like a dark, tawdry version of a charming film from the 1950s called "Lili" starring Leslie Caron you are absolutely correct--this novella was indeed the inspiration for that lovely film.

1 comment:

librarypat said...

Never saw the movie or read the book. Will have to check on both of them.