A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries

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The inspiration for the Merchant Ivory film starring Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Hershey and Leelee Sobieski, A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries is the poignant story of an American family living in Paris, based on Jones’ childhood memories of growing up in France with her famous father, the novelist James Jones. Four-year-old Channe, daughter of writer and WWII veteran Bill Willis, finds herself gripped by jealousy when her parents adopt a French boy whose mother abandoned him. Channe alternately resents and protects Benoit, who is so accustomed to being shuffled from family to family he refuses to let go of his battered suitcase. What follows is a tender coming-of-age story about Channe’s devotion to her blunt, hard-drinking father, who teaches Channe how to live; her strained bond with her mother, who throws all-night parties in the family’s eccentrically furnished apartment overlooking the Seine; and her reconciliation with the brother she has so often disdained once they move back to America as teenagers. Jones infuses the story with an elegiac beauty as she explores the complex, volatile relationships in a unique family.

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Although we’ve gotten used to second-generation actors equaling or surpassing the accomplishments of their parents, the same hasn’t happened with second-generation novelist. Nonetheless there are a few…and added to their small number ought to be Kaylie Jones.

New York Times

Jones’s third book, a delightful account of Americans living in Paris, captures the essence of childhood. Growing up in a loving, if sometimes bizarre, family, Channe Willis becomes a sister when her parents adopt Benoit, a French boy. Each sibling must struggle to adjust to the new situation; later, returning to America, they struggle simply to belong. As Channe progresses toward adulthood, her significant relationships involve her father, her Nanny Candida, teachers, boyfriends, and finally the brother she had so much trouble accepting. Jones, the daughter of James Jones, writes with sensitivity and compassion. Highly recommended.

— Ellen R. Cohen

Library Journal

The daughter of James Jones here offers a discerning, brightly written, apparently semiautobiographical bildungsroman. Channe Willis, the daughter of an eminent American novelist and his loving wife, grows up happy and spoiled in Paris. One day, her idyllic bubble is burst when her parents adopt a young French boy her own age, whose foster mother has committed suicide. Jones (Quite the Other Way) captures Channe’s waspish jealousy of Billy and her protective feelings for him that blossom against her will. A sexually promiscuous loner who is too dependent on her Portuguese nanny, Channe gropes her way through an adolescence whose pain is exacerbated by her father’s heart disease and the Willises’ return to America when Channe and Billy are 15. Although it explores Billy’s sexually repressed birth mother’s motives for giving him up for adoption, this novel is, above all, an elegy to a father-daughter bond that transcends death. Channe’s father is almost too good to be true: he celebrates with Channe her first menstrual period, lets her high school boyfriend sleep with her under the Willis roof, and turns Channe on to literature (“My father told me about the souls of books, how they came out of the writer whole, like babies with their own separate souls”).

Publisher’s Weekly