Written in 1974, this fun and charming book captures perfectly the tourist’s experience of Moscow of the 1970s.
The ebullient Mrs Harris journeys to Moscow on an errand of love, and battles Russian bureaucracy, toilet paper shortages and censorship. The story unfolds through the eyes of the “sharp-eyed, observant” char lady from London and her loyal and feisty friend, Mrs Butterfield. These two down-to-earth, good-hearted Cockneys even feel sorry for Lenin being “looked at by every Tom, Dick and ‘Arry after ‘e’s dead and gone and can’t ‘elp ‘imself”.
A love story, a mix-up over identities, a genuine admiration for the physical beauty of Moscow, charming characters and even a meeting with the Duke of Edinburgh, all add up to a recommended read.
For me, it brought back memories of my own travels (see Melancholy Moscow) in the ’70s. The frightening “Mrs ‘Orrible” is a replica of the hotel lift guardian in all Russian hotels of the time. There really was no toilet paper. Hotel rooms were dirty and delapidated (experienced travellers went armed with their own flea powder to treat the hotel bed). And I have to say, it was with some relief that I read that the Rossiya Hotel was not the delight I imagined when I gazed at it from Red Square.
A little gem of a book that captures the period so well.
Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow / Paul Gallico. – Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012
This and the three other Mrs Harris adventures are available on Kindle.