Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What French Women Know, Part 2

What do you get when you cross a francophile and a bibliophile? 

This:
A lot of great books have been written by women attempting to explain the French mystique.  These are just the ones that I own, that I could find quickly. They are piled up in no particular order.  All but one written by non-French women.  All worth a read.  (Yes, that is Olivia deHavilland's book you see in the middle.  Written in the 1950s and still timely!)

It's not an exhaustive collection; and feel free to suggest your favorites if not included in the photo.  Off the top of my head, most notably missing are books I've lent to friends, such as Petite Anglaise, Paris Hangover, and everything by Diane Johnson.

Making any list is terrible because there will be unforgivable omissions.  I humbly apologize in advance (like fraulein Maria kissing the ground before the nuns walk by). 

Please go out to your local bookstore or library or favorite online book source, and enjoy these.

As I said, I'm a francophile and a bibliophile.  I wanted to pay tribute to an incredible posse of writers describing what French women know. 

29 comments:

Andi said...

I think (I know) I have a similar pile! I read every book I can find on the topic. I am American married to a Frenchman - we have lived both in the U.S. and France - and I am always try to "understand". I did spot a couple in your pile that I don't have - what a treat!

Andi said...

Oops! P.S. YOURS was the very FIRST book I ever bought on the topic by the way, so many years ago!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Hi Andi,

Yes, collecting these books is a magnificent obsession, n'est-ce pas?

But I haven't published a book -- yet!

Polly Platt was a dear friend and colleague. Sadly, she died last Christmas.
http://pollyvousfrancais.blogspot.com/2009/01/polly-platt-in-memoriam.html


I edited "Love a la Francaise" with her and also copyedited the most recent edition of "Savoir Flair!"

Are there any books in your pile that I don't have? I'd love to hear!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Thank you for these lovely recommendations...

I also love: How to be Impossibly French by Helena Firth Powell

and

Anne Barone's Chic and Slim books (all of them are fabulous)!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I haven't yet read "The Dud Avocado" by Elaine Dundy, but it's on my to-read list.

And in my bookshelf of course is everything Janet Flanner wrote as Genet for the New Yorker, the 3-volume "Paris Journals" set.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Hi Daily Connoisseur!

I love Helena Frith-Powell's book, too. (It's 7th from the bottom n the photo -- you can click on the photo to enlarge and see titles.) I think it was also published under the title "Two Lipsticks and a Lover"? Not sure.

I haven't read Anne Barone's books, so those will also get added to my list. Thanks!

Meg said...

Polly, one of my favorites is Frederic Fekkai's book A Year of Style. Not nearly as entertaining as any of your blog entries or any of the typical "French style" books but it has some interesting tips.

He mentions being disgusted if he sees a woman wearing a bracelet on the same wrist as her watch. He finds it tacky and offensive. And I find him amusing. And I no longer wear watch/bracelet combos. So gauche...

Learn French said...

Hi Polly, great blog! Kim from http://www.frenchpod101.com sent you an email. Let me know when you get a chance to read. Thanks!

Cécile Qd9 said...

And do you know a book about cultural diffencies betwen french and americans ?
I'm looking for a book I read may be 15 years ago wxritten by a women. I think she was french living in the states and each chapter discribed a situation from the french and the american point of view. For example "having diner at home", "inviting friends", "conversation", and so on...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Cecile - wow. THAT is a book I'd like to read. Do you know if it was written in French or English? I have read "Une Francaise a New York" which was published a few years ago.
http://pollyvousfrancais.blogspot.com/2007/11/une-franaise-new-york.html

Diane said...

Love your blog! We lived in France for 4 years. I miss it! I have quite a few books on the subject but thanks to you I'm off to the bookstore!

S. Shoemaker said...

It's so coincidental that you posted this today! I am literally in the midst of an instant message conversation about my ravenous appetite for all books about France and French life! I think your list hits a lot of great volumes, and I just finished Julia Child's "My Life in France" which would be a fine addition to your pile! Have you ever read "Paris in Mind"? It is really wonderful!

LA Frog said...

Cécile: could it be "Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience" by Raymonde Carroll? Deals with all (practical + emotional) aspects of the Franco-American life, privileging facts over fluff. One of the best books I have read on the subject.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

LA Frog: Thanks -- I think I must read that one.

And S. Shoemaker: you know, I do have "Paris in Mind," edited by Jennifer Lee, and considered including it, as it's such a great collection. I guess when I stacked up this pile I was looking at books with one woman's voice in her attempt to discover what France and the French are.

I didn't even include in this book the writing of greats such as MFK Fisher or Mavis Gallant. All of which are on my shelves. But not so much social commentary/observation looking at the cultural differences as the ones mentioned here, I guess.

But I love everyone's suggestions!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

S. Shoemaker: P.S. You're so right! I just read Julia Child's "My Life in France" this summer. Silly moi for not adding it to the pile for the photo-op. Maybe it's still in a beachbag somewhere...

The Daily Connoisseur said...

I have given you an award on my blog... come check it out when you get a chance. xo

David BoogieBoogie said...

An author you may have missed: Patricia Atkinson. Her 'The Ripening Sun' 2003, and 'La Belle Saison' 2005, show how a non-French woman can be very successful living and working in France. Polly Platt had a paragraph about her in one of her books - they both lived in 24 (Dordogne) of course, but I don't think shared much time together.


I heard about you when I was doing the page-layout for 'Love a la française' and saw your side-notes on the manuscript - I was a near neighbour of Polly Platt in 2006/07 and enjoyed her company and friendship. I then found your blog, and I am now looking forward to seeing your book in print! Your observations on learning to live with and love the French, must be required reading for everyone boarding a plane to l'Hexagon!


Love your nom-de-plume (we can't stop using French phrases!) and tried unsuccessfully to find one for me. Maybe G.a. as I love eating good food - but it's not an original quip I'm afraid.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

David-- how great to connect. I do remember Polly talking about what a help you were in the graphics and layout. (Did you work on her web page as well?) I wrote a post that included my visit to her house there; I'm sorry we didn't have a chance to meet then!

http://pollyvousfrancais.blogspot.com/2007/08/fini-les-vacances.html

Thanks for the Patricia Atkinson suggestions; I'll definitely add those to the collection.

Keep in touch.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Daily Connoisseur -- Merci beaucoup! I'm honored. And I haven't read "This French Life," mentioned in your awards,so maybe that should be added to the tottering heaps?

Marie-Jolie said...

I love the stack of books... it seems similar to mine (only mine is a bit shorter). I'm leaving for Paris on Monday and am looking forward to my first visit to France.

-Marie

Meg said...

Polly, amazon.com owes you a commission - this blog tipped the scales and I gave in and ordered 4 books I've been on the fence about. I only hope that one day I'll be pre-ordering a book penned by you!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I was about to say "I'm partial to X or Y book." But each is different and important in its own way. "Fatale" by Edith Kunz, which may be not so visible in the photo, is a must-read, especially for American or Anglo-Saxon women planning to live in France. I have a long story to write about the American friend who firmly insisted that I absorb "Fatales'" lessons, as I was arriving in Paris and she was leaving after 8 years. "Read it," she repeated, with a Mona Lisa smile.

Paris Poodle said...

Hi Polly and co! I have just landed in gay Paris from the miniscule Isle of Wight and have set up a Paris beauty blog - http://www.theparispoodle.blogspot.com/

I know what you mean about French women - they certainly go about the place as though they have the secret to feminity and allure and i think it could be just that sense of mystery that keeps us all on our toes! it goes back to Coco before Chanel who said that it is much more provocative for men to have to imagine what lies beneath ones silk Chanel frock than to have flesh spilling out all over the show - think that this definatey where us Brits get it wrong!!

Anyway i thnk you have a great blog here and wish you welll! come visit my blog sometime if you get the chance!!

BISOUS X

Jacqui said...

I'm glad to see there is someone else as much a francomaniac as I. I have several piles of the same kind of books. My latest is Patricia Wells' We've always had Paris...and provence. This memoir of Patricia and her husband's move and life in France is a fascinating view of French culture and French life as well.

Linda said...

Great way to pass on book suggestions! Thank you, I will definitely check some of these out!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Here's an update from esteemed journalist Don Morrison

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/8df42d4c-aee3-11de-96d7-00144feabdc0.html

ParisBreakfasts said...

where are the books to make the Amercian man more Francofied(sp) is what I want to know?
This nonsense about American women having to remake themselves into Frenchies drives me nuts. Not that I don't attempt to tie my scarf like every other American fool...ahem

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Moliere's Don Juan is probably the most recent!

Eddie said...

I read "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull and loved it. And it's funny you should mention Molière because I just watched a French movie about him the other week at French club here at college.

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