A real-life Dud Avocado, this memoir is a provocative account of a feminist scholar’s sexual awakening set amid the backdrop of 1960s Paris.”
“Miller’s memoir will resonate with women who, over the years, have been fascinated by Jean Seberg’s role as Patricia in the Godard film Breathless (1960) . . . Her look back is filled with vintage vignettes of garret apartments, matronly concierges, and the silk-lingerie splurges of a poor young student’s milieu.”
“Breathless, a deliriously satisfying account of erotic awakening and disillusionment, unfolds as a chain of tightly crafted, riveting vignettes, each episode as mesmerizing as the city enshrined at the book’s center. Simone de Beauvoir would have loved this story. Jean-Paul Sartre, too. But Nancy K. Miller is more entertaining than both of them put together. Her book offers a beautifully distilled parable about the difficulties of finding a direct path to happiness.”
Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Andy Warhol
"This cautionary memoir of a girl's fantasy adventure in Paris gone awry reads like a witty novel. Its vivid scenes are frequently hilarious, sometimes sad, and always engrossing. That it really happened only makes it better."
Alix Kates Shulman, author of To Love What Is
"A steamy portrait of the jeune fille before she became a feminist. A wonderful reminder of what it meant to be a good daughter determined to become a bad girl in the roiling sixties. I loved every chapter of this American’s sex-obsessed quest for identity in Paris."
Susan Gubar, author of Memoir of a Debulked Woman
"Witty, wise, poignant, and funny, Breathless is an extraordinary memoir about a young woman’s adventures and misadventures in Paris, a city that was for her as much an idea as a place. Miller’s vividly told memories, keen intelligence, gentle irony, and striking gift for narrative pacing held me captive from beginning to end."
Siri Hustvedt, author of What I Loved and The Summer Without Men
"Surprising, daring, funny, wise, and profound."
Elaine Showalter, author of A Jury of Her Peers
“Breathless, Nancy Miller's wry and wonderful new memoir about a romantic (and chastening) student sojourn she spent in Paris in the early 1960s, is a delicious, picaresque, often hilarious female 'coming of age' storyfull of zest and pathos and more than a few glints of Proustian profondeur. . . . [Miller] offers a story at once salutary, intelligent, deeply humorous, and ineluctably bittersweet: the souvenir of a magical mise-en-scène, from a brilliant young woman who paid attention to it all.”
Terry Castle, author of The Professor and Other Writings
"An artful portrait of youthful indiscretion in a bygone time."
A coming-of-age tale covering the author's 20s in Paris, where she studied, worked, lived on her own for the first time, fell in and out of love, and found solid ground beneath her feet. Miller (English and Comparative Literature/Graduate Center, CUNY; What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past, 2011, etc.) has previously mined her past in memoirs about herself and the lives of her parents. This book takes its name from the Godard film, which inspired the author, upon graduating from Barnard College in 1961, to move to Paris at 21. While studying at the Sorbonne, Miller sought freedom from her parents' incessant meddling and attempted to swap her "nice-Jewish-girl" identity for a life of sophistication and romance. She writes of her transformation from wide-eyed naif ("I didn't set out to sleep with Philippe") to a confident, individualized woman capable of making her own decisions--about whom to date, where to live and work, and the direction of her future. Repeatedly, she revisits her perceived lack of self-understanding and the myriad experiences that informed her self-awareness and capacity to recognize and give voice to her own desires. Miller's first year in France truly represented a necessary break from the lifelong pressures of "les parents terribles," and it was followed by more space after she received a Fulbright teaching fellowship, enabling her to stay longer. After a couple years, Miller met and eloped with an older American expat who ran a language school. The book's final half is dominated by the marriage's highs and lows, the latter of which contributed even more fully to Miller's break from controlling influences and resulted in her trusting her own judgment. Originally in search of salvation from her family, Miller found the external adventures she'd craved and painful ones she hadn't anticipated, and she went through a deeply personal transformation. Articulate, keen and satisfying.