What French Women Know Hardcover – Sep 15 2009
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Try it out for Gallic girl attitude GLAMOUR DAILY MAIL 'If you are in the mood for witty tongue-in-cheek non-fiction read WHAT FRENCH WOMEN KNOW by Debra Ollivier' Gabriela Popa, HUFFINGTON POST --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Debra Ollivier's work has appeared in Harper's, Playboy, Le Monde, and the Guardian. A bilingual American with French citizenship, Ollivier currently lives with her French husband and two children in Los Angeles. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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I've read lot's of books about French women, from what they wear to what they eat. This book was different. It delved more into why they are what they are. More than that, it helped me see why, as an American, I am what I am.
Like most other American girls, I grew up wanting to be like everyone else. Wanting to fit in, wanting to be liked. French women don't want to be like everyone else, they want to stand out, they want to add their individual touches. And as far as being liked....they don't care. They don't feel the need to be nice, to go around smiling at everyone.
Another interesting area was in child rearing. They are much more inclined to try and raise independent children. The author talks of the day care that her two year old attended. The daycare was taking the two year olds off on a two day field trip! The French parents all let their children go and enjoyed a lovely two days relaxing with their husbands, while none of the American women would let their children go.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. Do I think that French women are better than me? No. Do I think I am better than French women? No. Do I think that perhaps we could learn from each other? Yes?
Debra Ollivier extols the virtues of the French's devil-may-care, savour the moment philosophy, a stark contrast to American women's tireless pursuit of perfection. The book isn't really preachy, but the author makes her point very clear: the allure of French women is largely based on their capacity to keep their lipstick on as they roll with the punches.
This is a refreshing alternative to the "try harder, do more" manta of most women's self-help books. While I have no intention of moving to France or ceasing to shave my armpits, I do agree that it would be nice if we Americans knew the difference between making a living and having a life. Perhaps we would be happier if we took a few lessons from our French sisters and cultivated an air of mystery, acted our age, broke a few rules and flirted with more men.
If you are a woman who actually prefers the company of men, women who like men and flirting with men, and women who are nevertheless perfectly happy not being men, then you already know nearly half of what it took for French women to impress the author. The other half is fun to read, but be warned that the author commits the common Southern Californian sin of throwing her whole allegiance unquestioningly behind her current fad in intellectual thinking.
In other words, this is not a deeply thought-out work of comparing and contrasting French and American attitudes. It is a book about why the French amazed and charmed a Californian enough that she has become a French citizen. Even if you're not ready to drink the Kool-Aid--or should it be Orangina?--you might enjoy the safari.
Be warned: the audiobook is read by the author, not a professional voice actor. Be prepared to enjoy/suffer accordingly.
Ollivier shares how French women use these skills to their advantage. Clearly in many ways many French women have learned to live a life of enjoyment and acceptance instead of striving for a non attainable perfection and focusing on the negative.
In her book Ollivier points out the ways a French woman might perceive something vs. how an American woman might. This is not to say a French woman's way is better, it is just different.
For example, if a daughter bought her boyfriend home for the first time an American might give him the third degree immediately while the French would be loathe to ask personal questions. Which way is right depends on your thinking.
But what is so interesting is how it boils down to our approach to things and attitude. If you are unhappy with how things are for you now or want a little attitude change checking out the book may give you fresh ideas on how to approach things. Then again if all is working for you, no need for a book to learn about "What French Women Know" unless you want to know what they know just so you know :)
~ Lee Mellott
It is not at all a how-to book. You might be able to extrapolate a few behaviors from this discussion, but unless you are relating to a Frenchman, you may find yourself misunderstood. What comes off as charmingly coy and mysterious in a Frenchwoman may be seen as stuck-up and bitchy in an American woman. Maybe not. The overall message in this book, as well as the earlier book, is that a Frenchwoman does what she likes and does not worry about others' opinions. She does follow social protocols, for the most part- for example, it is understood that a beau will bring flowers on the first "date"--the French don't date like we do either-- pay for the meals, and so forth. Fundamentally, though, according to Ms Ollivier, who is an American married to a Frenchman who lived in France for 10 years and still has a home in Paris, the French are private people who do not care what the public at large thinks. Their homes cannot be seen into from the street. They do not tell all, even to their spouses. They like mystery and secrets and discretion.
Ollivier tells us that the French have wonderful mixed gender friendships, and flirtation is expected. A husband is proud that his wife attracts admirers, not threatened. Women are close to their fathers, brothers, and have many male friends. The down side appears to be that women do not have particularly good relationships with other women. C'est la vie.
Ollivier tells us about real French people, not the handful of Left Bank stereotypes we have seen on our travels. French women do get fat and dress badly, but apparently, they have many types of vibrant relationships with men. Sign me up!
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