Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris


196 pages
ISBN 0-7715-9687-1




Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations


Governor General’s Award-winner and Canadian expatriate, Mavis Gallant is a master of the short story. Her first collection, Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris, first appeared as pieces in The New Yorker and Harper’s.

Gallant’s stories are meticulously detailed and her characters have astonishing depth. She focuses her attention on the Parisian “petit bourgeoisie,” Paris being her adopted city since 1950. Both outsider and native, Gallant delves into the frustrations of urban life and studies the relationships among parents and son, native and foreigner, the British and French, and art and religion; she also looks at feminism, the eternal triangle, and the bureaucracy.

Gallant’s prose is sophisticated and superbly controlled. Her tales are black comedies in which the bourgeoisie must confront changing times and mores and come face to face with the absurdities and realities of everyday existence. Parents delude themselves about their offspring; writers take themselves too seriously; patrons of the arts become caricatures; art dealers find their artists more difficult than their clients. Illusions become delusions in reality.

Life in Paris as an outsider has given Gallant a sharper edge of objectivity. Her imagery is crystal clear and precise to the last detail. There is no sense of affection or patience from author to character. Judgments are harsh and pointed. Gallant’s Canadian connection occasionally surfaces; the widow of a French painter hails from Saskatchewan.

Mavis Gallant is an extraordinary writer whose control and creative use of the language is masterful. Her latest collection of short stories merely adds to the treasure trove of her superlative prose.


Gallant, Mavis, “Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36006.