“Winter Rain” Summary: Alice Adams Short Story

“Winter Rain” is a short story by Alice Adams about a woman who remembers the two most important people in her life from a winter in Paris. It can be read in the sample of The Stories of Alice Adams (35% in). Here’s a summary of “Winter Rain”.

“Winter Rain” Summary

The narrator, Patience, remembers the winter of 1947-48 in Paris when she was studying at the Sorbonne. It was the coldest she’s ever been and many strikes shut down basic services. There were lots of American students in the country. She hasn’t kept in touch with Bruno, Joe, Laura or Mme. Frenaye, though she thinks of them now, particularly her inevitable parting with Mme. Frenaye over money.

Patience inquires at Mme. Frenaye’s on a rainy September day. The central room is warm and exquisitely furnished. Mme. Frenaye is elderly but Junoesque and well-preserved. She wears only black, still mourning her deceased husband of five years.

Winter Rain Alice Adams Summary Short Story
“Winter Rain” Summary

While having tea and cakes in front of the fire, they talk about Parisian culture and places they’ve been. Before leaving, Mme. Frenaye offers Patience a room with breakfast and dinner for an exorbitant sum. She accepts on the spot without objecting to the price. She’s not sure if Mme. Frenaye was trying to get her to refuse, or if she accepted just to prove she could. She would end up staying from September to February.

Patience’s room isn’t large or warm but it has a big, comfortable bed with layers of sheets. Mme. Frenaye uses the warm room, which couldn’t accommodate the large bed.

Patience’s friends don’t understand why she stays there. As positives, the food is fantastic and her French improves, as Mme. Frenaye doesn’t speak English. She likes hearing all about America. She’s surprised at the anti-Semitism, as she adores American Jews, having always had good dealings with them.

The narrator likes Mme. Frenaye and would have stayed until June before returning to New York if she hadn’t met Bruno around Christmas.

Bruno had spent time in a Vichy concentration camp and fought with the Maquis, but emerged without any scars. He studies law in Paris and lives with relatives. He and Patience have no where to go and spent a lot of time out walking in the cold. They dreamed of a warm, furnished room and quarreled frequently.

Patience spends Christmas day with Mme. Frenaye out of duty. They exchange disappointing gifts but have a nice meal. When she meets Bruno that night, they argue about her living arrangements. She feels safe at Mme. Frenaye’s, despite the obvious drawbacks of the cost and distance from Bruno.

There are other problems. Mme. Frenaye borrows small sums of money without paying them back. She appropriates the care packages from the narrator’s mother, opening them and taking the American food she wants. Patience doesn’t have the courage to say anything. It takes a strike and Bruno to change things.

“Winter Rain” Summary, Cont’d

Bruno complains of her living arrangements all through January. Things come to a head when they sit in a coffeehouse without enough money to even buy hot chocolate, and Bruno points out it wouldn’t be like that if she lived somewhere else. They agree to break up and she cries on the ride home.

Patience is miserable the next week—from the break up, the heat failing, and a mail strike that prevents her getting her money from home. She’s unable to pay her rent and Mme. Frenaye isn’t understanding.

Patience needs to see Bruno again. The next morning, she tells Mme. Frenaye that she has to leave, citing the high rent and distance from school. She takes the news unemotionally, and the Patience realizes Mme. Frenaye probably saw it coming.

The narrator is frustrated that Mme. Frenaye didn’t argue with her. She’s the one who seems in the wrong. They say a polite goodbye. She finds a room on the Rue de Seine.

Patience reunites with Bruno but they still argue and have many temporary partings. After one such incident, she invites Mme. Frenaye to meet her for tea at the Ritz. Their reunion is pleasant. They part on good terms but with no mention of seeing each other again.

Joe and Laura leave for Hollywood in March. It continues cold into April. In May, the weather warms and she and Bruno are happy for about a month. They know that their relationship won’t last. She invites Mme. Frenaye and Bruno to her room for tea, not knowing what she expects from it.

Mme. Frenaye is charming and Bruno comes off more like an American boy than an Italian radical. She approves of him and he likes her. Mme. Frenaye is tactful about the room. She and Bruno talk about the beauties of Italy.

Things deteriorate after that until Patience leaves in early June. Her meetings with Bruno always end badly. She calls Mme. Frenaye to say goodbye but gets no answer.

Patience sometimes thinks of writing Mme. Frenaye and telling her about her family life, but she doesn’t. She never thinks of Bruno anymore. They both stay in that year of her history.

I hope this summary of “Winter Rain” by Alice Adams was helpful.