Cover image for Paisley girl : a novel
Paisley girl : a novel
Gordon, Fran.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
213 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Paisley, a woman whose body shows the finely etched scars of mast-cell leukemia, attempts to transcend the limitations forced on her by her disease, moving through a fast-paced world of international travel, rock stars, and soulful liberation.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A jaggedly sharp novel of despair and redemption, Paisley Girl is the story of a young woman dying of mast cell leukemia, which covers her body with dark, paisleylike marks. Left destitute by the examinations of doctors who prove unable to heal her and feeling rejected by her parents' inability to comprehend her illness, she embarks on a quest to quell the inner hunger that devours her soul as steadily as the disease devours her body. On her healing journey, she revisits the people and places of her past and comes to terms with the events that led to her descent into illness. Gordon makes her inner torment explicit in the ravages of her illness; when she displays the progression of her protagonist's physical decay, Gordon also depicts the inner struggle of a woman who refuses to accept the soulless sterility of the life she has been leading. The well-written, fast-paced novel is heavily laced with self-aware cynicism that occasionally veers into hopefulness in spite of itself. --Bonnie Johnston

Publisher's Weekly Review

By turns stark and insouciant, dry-witted and desperately honest, composed of trendy vernacular and poetic images, Gordon's memorable first novel mixes reflections on body, mind, illness and soul with far-flung adventures in youth culture. "Word has spread of my body, painted in the grotesque..." the narrator begins; she suffers from mast-cell leukemia, a rare disease that causes her skin to break out in eerily beautiful leaflike patterns. (Gordon herself, we are told in the promo copy, has suffered from the same disease.) The reader first encounters the heroine (known only as Paisley) in a hospital, where she staunchly refuses to pity herself as a horde of medical students hovers around and inspects her body. Her life outside the hospital is no less painful: still scarred, she lives for a while with her brother ("premed... and allergic to hospitals"), and then with her horrified parents in an unspecified Southern town. Fragmented scenes from the past flit across Paisley's mind: drug-hazed days and nights with her pop-musician boyfriend, Crash, on the London club scene ("Crash loved me for my lucent skin and I accepted his knighthood, wide-eyed"), childhood memories of French cigarettes and birthday parties. Then, using Crash's credit card, she flies to Barbados, where she gets mixed up with cocaine smugglers as she desperately seeks a new life. Sometimes affecting, sometimes abrupt and affectless, Gordon's prose dares readers to come close, but not too close: her detached and fragmentary style recalls Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted. Some readers will find the repeated accounts of illness overwhelming, while others will wish for more introspection and less intrigue once Paisley lands in Barbados. Finally, though, Gordon keeps her difficult balance: her stylish tale of illness and self-discovery will be particularly appreciated by members of her generation. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gordon's debut novel is about a woman suffering from mast-cell leukemia who struggles through physical and emotional self-discovery. The nameless woman is referred to as Paisley after the patterned rashes all over her body caused by her unusual disease. Through rich language and imagery so real and so jarring that it makes one gasp, Gordon takes readers into Paisley's painful experience. At the start, Paisley is being treated in the hospital, but her search for love and happiness compels her to return home, reflect on her time with her rock star lover in London, and travel to Barbados and Trinidad. She revisits old lovers and friends and encounters all sorts of unique characters, not all of them so likable. The story reaches its conclusion as Paisley, accustomed to running away, comes to terms with her disease, with life and death, and, most importantly, with herself. Recommended.ÄAmanda Fung, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.