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86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
It used to be that authors would have to pay publishers (the "vanity presses") to print junk like this. Gershman, unfortunately, was able to leverage her previous success with the "Born to Shop" series and got this book on the market.

Sorry to say, there is nothing in C'est la Vie" for the average reader. It is difficult to feel any sympathy for Gershman, whose solution to virtually any problem is to call one of her well-placed "friends" to solve it. The average American is not buddies with the executive editor of the top English-language newspaper in Europe. Or with general managers of the top hotels and chefs of the top restaurants. Or with numerous journalists.

So knowing Gershman's experience will not help you. Nor will you identify with her.

This book gets five stars for name dropping but none for the rest of its content.

To make things worse, Gershman throws in some bad legal advice (you do indeed need a work permit to accept writing assignments from a French magazine in France) and bizarre religious views (she says she observes Jewish rituals while mentioning none and violating numerous religious laws. Newsflash, Suzy: Adultery violates your religion. So does cremation.)

There is a dreaded hint of a sequel buried in one of the last chapters. Please don't.

If you want to read an interesting, well-written and humorous account of a foreigner moving to France, the standard is still Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence."
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Planning to relocate to Paris? Maybe just thinking about it? Mulling over what problems you will encounter? Then do NOT buy this book. Suzy spends more time babbling about her preparations to bed a still-married geriatric aristocrat. Pathetic. Fortunately I did not buy the copy I read, I found it on a park bench in town. No wonder it had been abandoned...

I am HalMcInnes, bye.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Constantly shopping and bragging about her connections, she must mention buying linens a hundred times. I was fairly horrified by how much emphasis she put on feathering her nest and bargain-hunting. I felt like I was listening to some horrid aunt go on and on about her friends and her clever buys, and I just wanted to say, "Well aren't you just wonderful?" I want to move to France to get away from people like her!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Having just returned to the States from two weeks in Paris, France, I picked up this book half-priced here

on the west coast. I wanted so much to like it...but I am disappointed. This book was published by Penguin no less, and the writing is tacky and the thinking shallow. I did not know that Suzy

Gershman is the Born to Shop series author, which kind of explains the fact that she goes on endlessly about her shopping sprees, which become very boring. She seems to have so little knowledge of French history, art, and literature, that her idea of "being French" is eating at the right cafes and sleeping with an ancient French man. I am almost at the end of the book, and there has been no mention of the fabulous paintings and sculpture of Paris, as well as the museums and wonderful ethnic diversity (we went to a terrific Asian-French cafe right off the Champs Elysees, for instance). Despite her great connections, I feel a bit sorry for Suzy. She is very revealing about her personal life, and at times even I had to laugh at some of her silly antics, but she is not a very good writer, just a good schmoozer. You still might want to read the book if you want something kinda trashy to read in your bubble bath or whatever. I was amused by her cooking instant brownies and serving them to the French. I wonder what they think of her! It's a bit horrifying to think that she may be their idea of a typical American.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you take this book as just an inside look into a widow's go-it-alone establishment in Paris after the passing of her husband, then I think you will get enjoyment out of her daily adventures. You also might get some good advice on culture and home hunting in Paris. (However, keep in mind that this woman had many contacts and previous experience in Paris, oh yeah, and a pretty big wad of money.)

Unfortunately, to me it seemed that she could have been a little more emotional about the loss of her lifelong husband and about her son's feelings. I perceived mostly self-centered thoughts in her decisions. I only mention this because it kind of dragged down an otherwise lighthearted, funny story for me.

Overall, I would say it is worth a quick weekend read if you have some down time.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
As a twenty-something, this book was a little 'old' for me. It is essentially the story of a 50-something widow who escapes her sorrows and old life in the US to start again in the city she loves - Paris. I did enjoy her descriptions of the city and it's people, but after a while, all the name-dropping and elitist activities she claims to have done gets to you ("coffee at the Ritz with Les Girls", etc). She comes across as a snob (even as she tries to say that about others around her) and experiences Paris as a cashed up socialite, even claimed through out the book about how much on a budget she is (then writes about spending thousands of dollars on flea market furniture, food, limosines, fancy restaurants, flights back and forth between the US, etc and how she isn't on the 'Forbes500 list of Richest Women' anymore?!?)

She also repeats herself a few times (i.e. name someone with an small description, then does it all over again a few chapters later) which breaks up the smooth flow of the book and in my mind I could only think "bad editing". A small gripe, but still one worthy of mention.

All in all, it is a story about a woman coming to terms with the death of her husband and finding a new life for herself in Paris. The description on the back cover of the book understates her husbands death as she does spend a lot of time talking about her late husband (almost every chapter right until the end) and her obsession to establish herself in French society. Don't get me wrong - This is an entertaining book for over 40's, who have a similar lifestyle (i.e. money and social standing), otherwise to everyone else, it comes across as a tad boastful and shallow by the end. I'm sure she is a lovely lady (and you do tend to sympathise during her 'dark' moments, but by the end you become a bit resentful towards her constant talk of money).

As for the 'recipe tips to the perfect clafoutis' - she spends more time Americanising her food and baking from instant mixes than actually baking...and she doesn't exactly write about the perfect baking tips - it's more like how she went wrong with a packet mix and how it luckily turned out fine at the end.

For people who want a more realistic (in the sense of someone living in Paris without a wad of cash funded by her husband's life insurance money) narrative about Paris life, I would probably recommend 'Almost French' by Sarah Turnbull or even 'La Vie Parisienne' by Janelle McCulloch.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this book, I am ashamed to say. I am also reluctant to review it as I do not really want my name associated with it. However, just to keep someone else from the painful experience of reading the book, I will write a few words.

I will never be dining with Suzy Gershman, shopping with her, or visiting her in Paris. We would not run in the same social circles. Both of us are (or would be) glad that our paths will never cross. No matter where we each live, we would never understand each other, nor would we share any common interests.

This is the most shallow and self-satisfied non-fiction (?) book I have ever read.

Save yourself the cost of even a used copy of this book. Instead, get a few copies of "People." then imagine spending the rest of your life hanging out in stores and buying things you hope to use to impress your "friends." You will not need to read the book.

The relationships with people and things described in this book make shallow seem deep. I have not read anything like this before. I kept wishing that I could hit the author in the head and I am NOT a violent person. I plan to avoid anything that is even remotely similar to this book in the future and carefully shunning all the recommendations Amazon has for books I would theoretically like if I would have liked it.

"Almost French," ha! This book should be titled "Almost Human." I only wish that Amazon would allow me to give it a NEGATIVE star rating.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
I found this book very difficult to read. It was poorly written and very disjointed. I felt that the author would introduce topics and then never come back to the topics, ie fax machine, finances, awful relationship with her concierge. The book never flowed properly, not a great travel book or memoir.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I bought this book with the anticipation that it would be a woman's personal and emotional journey in the city I have always adored. Instead, the author has a rather cold demeanor throughout and this book reads far more like a how-to for moving to Paris than an actual experience. This is not SO bad, but collective shopping trips and apartment hunting antecedotes do NOT a memoir make!

I also found the author's reflection on her loss to be very callous and detached. I understand that everyone copes in their own way but the book was described in a very different light than it actually read. Definitely not worth buying or reading unless you want to move to Paris and need a game plan. More like Travel, not Travel Writing.

If you want a really fun and witty memoir about Paris pick up Sarah Turnbull's "Almost French."
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I'm a sucker for the move-to-Paris (Provence, Tuscany, Spain, etc.) genre, with one caveat. I like the stories where the writer has actually moved to Paris or wherever, and is not just buying a summer home expecting to become a native. In other words, I liked A Year in Provence, and was not so fond of Under the Tuscan Sun.

In C'est la Vie, Suzy Gershman has indeed sold her house in the States and moved to Paris. She is newly widowed, which adds a different twist to this story. Gershman tells how she managed to get an apartment and furniture, how she dealt with the French bureaucaracy without speaking much French, how she coped with losing her husband, and how she got back into the dating game. She keeps an upbeat attitude in spite of all the obstacles and becomes, as an acquaintance tells her, "almost French."

C'est la Vie has everything going for it, and yet, I feel as if I should have enjoyed it more than I did. I was not aware of Gershman's Born to Shop series of books, so was a bit perplexed by the frequent and detailed shopping interludes. Apparently, she is also a celebrity of sorts, so she does a bit of name-dropping. She doesn't flinch at popping for regular trips to London to have her hair and nails done, so she isn't exactly a budget traveler.

C'est la Vie reads more like a fantasy than like a travel memoir. I guess I was expecting to identify with Gershman, but the affair with the wealthy Count, the New Year's Eve assignation with a handsome Italian at the Ritz, the purchase of a summer home in Provence, made it a wee bit difficult to connect with Suzy.

Although I did enjoy C'est la Vie, I also recommend Almost French by Sarah Turnbull. It's written by an Australian journalist who travels to Paris, falls in love with a French man, and stays. Somehow, I found her story much more real.
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