146 of 155 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2004
While there isn't anything too startingly *new* in this slim volume, I quite liked it, so I'm recommending it to all of you ladies who'd like some very light, frothy non-fiction for that three hour plane trip, or to curl up with just before bed. While a load of these sorts of books abounds right now, this author comes to her task honestly: she lived in France for 10 years, and from her likeable photo on the back cover, she's the kind of american everywoman whose point of view really might come in handy for those of us who wouldn't mind picking up a little french style. I thought her take on french women was admiring withOUT lapsing into the sort of "self-hating american" all-things-european adoration I've seen plenty of in various fashion magazines. Really a collection of ruminations on what it means to be french. And sociologists take note: her pages on the VERY different approach frenchwomen take to interpersonal relations(when meeting a new person/potential gal pal, general socializing, office demeanor, etc.)are from my limited experience absolutely on the money. In addition to the entertainment value, I'm going to try to adopt the described "french" qualities of self-restraint in gabbing, at least; I'm sure my success will be limited, but every little soupcon helps!
191 of 208 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2004
My origin is half-French, I spend most of my day in France, travel very often to Paris and my best friends are French or Swiss French. At first I was shocked to discover how very French I actually turn out to be as described in the book, and how the traditions and values that I've been bequeathed are so very French too. But then the word "archetypal" is mentioned in the prologue and you'd better bear in mind all throughout your reading that this book is more about the ideal French woman and how to bring out the archetypal French woman in you rather than a description of what French women actually are like. Though many of my friends and acquaintances fit into the French girl description, I know scores of French women who are nosey, frumpy, tacky and very gauche. Especially if you've never been to France, don't be misled: this book is full of the typical prejudices and stereotypes about the French woman as seen through the gawking eyes of the American outsider. That is, the French woman as we would like to believe she is. There are also some mistakes, like ascribing Madame de Pompadour as Louis XIV's lover (she was Louis XV's)and the fact that many of the women reviewed (Anaïs Nin, Catherine de Medici, Marie Antoinette or Pauline de Rothschild) are not even French. Anyway, the book makes interesting beach reading. The prose is feisty, fast-paced and you'll find it hard to put down.
327 of 360 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2006
I am a French myself, I've noticed that there are a lot of books to teach people out there "how to be French", "how to eat like French", "why French are so great", for me, it is very strange. Of course France is a great place with all those history, food, museums, culture. But we also have a lot of bad things. So prasing French all the time is a bit non sense and it really makes us French more arrogant. (Yes, we are too arrogant and proud of ourselves). Even being a French myself, I have to admit it. We should learn to respect other culture and people. But all these books are making us feel like privilage. There is another book called" French women don't get fat". To be honest, we have a lot of fat people in Paris, a lot of women out there are not slim or as elegant as the books described. These books making the girls here feel like they are godness, which is bad. More and more people here are thinking they are the best. But the fact is, we have high unemployment rate, our streets, metros are so dirty, our people don't want to face the reality. We love to enjoy life too much, but we are too lazy to earn money to support ourselves and we are rejecting other culture. So wake up, we are all equal. Don't let our surface fool you.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2004
What is it? Surprisingly profound for a fashion manual. Lightweight for a philosophical treatise. Debra Ollivier takes us by the hand and leads us along a delightful path of discovery of daily life in the venerable French culture. Her intimate knowledge of the French as a wife, mother and long-term resident there, yet from an American perspective, takes us to places no French person could ever see. Implied in her book is the notion that the French girl's tradition-starved American cousine could benefit from lessons on slowing down and getting to know and love herself a little better.
From her unique perspective, straddled between two cultures, she offers us a feasible model for a pleasant way of life that has stood the test of time. Could it be that less is really more, and that we can make do with not so much in a sensuous, rich, beautiful way rather than only through Spartan suffering? We may wonder what happened to the flip side of the coin (racism a la Le Penn for example?), but can't help but enjoy her astute observations and entertaining style and don't mind having our thoughts provoked, even if it is just a little bit.
I for one am glad tht she so eloquently documented her unique experience and quite enjoyed the book once I forgave it for not meeting any expectations of what I thought it should have been.
96 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2005
I found this book a disappointment. As a French speaker and a frequent visitor to France, I was eager to see another American's view on French style.
This author, however, describes a France that exists only in her imagination. "French girls" are naturally thin and never have a moment of self-doubt. Every meal they consume is a home-made rhapsody of fresh ingredients. When they get old, they live in a paradise of red lipstick, Chanel suits and poodles, surrounded by well-behaved grandchildren and enjoying daily chats with their neighborhood butcher and baker.
The last time I checked, every drugstore in Paris had huge posters pushing cellulite-shrinking creams to those thin, secure women. "Quick", the world's worst fast food chain (baked hamburgers!) has hundreds of outlets in France. And in 2003, the summer that this was book published, hundreds of elderly Frenchmen and women died alone in their apartments during a punishing heat wave. The government had trouble getting relatives to return from vacation long enough to collect the bodies.
Look, I like France and I have nothing against the French. But this lead-footed author - her "humor" reminds me of a high-school newspaper - writes about French women with a passionate crush, as if they can do no wrong. Her own country comes off like a loathed ex-husband. Americans, apparently are crude, fat, poorly dressed, and deservedly miserable. "How many breakfast cereals do Americans need to be happy?" she quotes a French visitor as saying.
I'm glad the other correspondents enjoyed this book, but I didn't. I usually pass on my books to a girlfriend or to charity, but this one I may just throw away.
124 of 145 people found the following review helpful
Ollivier's 'Entre Nous' is a fun book to read; its akin to being Sabrina, rushing off to a mental France to learn a little sophistication and buy some wonderfully chic clothes that will never go out of style. All the stars awarded for this book are mostly due to the wonderful compendium of "asides" that the author sprinkles magazine-wise throughout the text in the form of French Girl Biographies (Audrey Tatou and Edith Piaf come to mind), French films which exemplify certain French lifestyle traits to the max, recipes, and a colorful melange of other varied topics which range from 'what a French girl has in her closet' to 'what she keeps in her refrigerator.' Every one of these little sidebars are a delight to read and will fuel your own need to make the little things in life memorable and full of the joy of knowing that what you do is well done.
However the main text which categorizes such priceless accoutrements to a life well lived as French strikes me as unrealistic, albeit still fun. Many women of varied ethnicities can be attributed with that charismatic 'je ne sais quoi' that can be as heady and delicious as plunging your nose in a thousand fresh roses. Ollivier directs most of her admonitions to her Anglo-Saxon compatriots--but to think that all American women are of Anglo Saxon descent or worse, to think that all American women are Anglo Saxon wannabees, sadly misrepresents the majority of women in the United States. As an Italian American New Yorker, many of the tips and secrets Ollivier defines as solely 'French' are second nature to me--yet I am still an American. Comparing the stereotype of a svelte French woman, cigarette dangling, beret, striped leotard, tight-black skirt-wearing to the stereotype of the All-American cheerleader who would kill for football tickets is fine for those of us who were all American cheerleaders and love sports--I, for one, was not and do not, and I find it amusing, and charming that most of the things dictated in this book are now not considered foreign or too different, but actually desirable and exotic!!!! I guess our pluralistic society does work in that it offers choices rather than conformity.
I also find it strange that even though Ollivier demands that we 'be ourselves' proudly, she benchmarks 'French' traits as those to which every woman would wish to aspire. Again, I find it okay to agree or disagree--if Madame B. accepts her husband's indiscretions, why should I care? What I do is my own business and not for public consumption--is this a French idea? NO, I am not French, simply wise enough to know that you cannot change people. Ollivier's stereotypical French girl exists in all of us in bits and pieces. Yet, let's face it, she conforms to her idea of what she needs to be in her own environment. If we are comfortable enacting a repressed Anglo-Saxon persona it is probably because this is what was taught from the cradle and what our neighbors enact--does Ollivier expect an instant resolution to change? How can one be oneself and change due to advice given in a book? Impossible unless an environment change actually results.
The section I enjoyed the most was the one dedicated to food. I know the French enjoy eating with gusto; many courses of rich food all washed down with large quantities of red wine. Fat and cholesterol are never considered and certainly not mentioned---why ruin a good meal? Can you imagine a French woman measuring her food to adhere to the principles of the Zone? Or not eating certain foods because of her blood type? Yet, as the author states, the French woman looks nothing like her American counterpart as she ages; she may change with time, but not in the dramatic way an American does. Why? What is the secret? In a nutshell, food enhances one's life--but one does not live to eat. Ollivier states that food shopping is done everyday--not as a chore, but as a way of life--socializing with those who provide food for your table. No cars necessary, walking, conversing and choosing are leisurely activities--no stress associated with 'running errands'. Only the freshest food is purchased; the ensuing meal revolves around what is seasonable, fresh and readily available. Little is left over or stocked in the refrigerator; the French woman buys only what she needs, never more. Portions are then only portions; no meals-in-a-box with preservatives are utilized at all. Although this explanation has been pointed out before by many other writers, dieticians and health care providers, Ollivier encapsulates the concept with fun food for thought.
Bottom line: This book is fun to read and provides many enjoyable suggestions for film-viewing ideas and other streamlining projects (closet and refrigerator in particular). I do not think it is meant to be taken very seriously. Perhaps, you, like me, will enjoy the tribute to individuality and rather than adapt to so-called French ways, celebrate fully what is different about yourself---you never know, you may be writing your own book someday sharing all your own personal secrets!
106 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2004
I lived in Taiwan, this book about French "girls"could easily apply to the Taiwanese "girls". But let me add my 2 cents of thought. Through the book it mentions all the time that most french guy has a mistress (the same in Taiwan). If a french girl is all that, is a marvelous girl with high standards, can you explain how a "wonderful, svelte, smart, etc etc "French girl who according to the book, just get into anything if there is quality in it, got into a non quality relationship that requires that her husband to have a mistress so the texture of the family will be rich, according to the author ?
Let me set straight, American women may be described as frumpy, just wear flat shoes, and sweaters, whatever, but the average American "girl"certainly does not need to comform herself that her husband needs a mistress out of marriage.
So the quality that French girls put in their relationship, dressing, high heel shoes (Prada if possible) is a waste of time. Let me add one more cent. Many women worldly have been asked the same question: "What did he saw in her ? " when they see their guys getting a mistress that is not perfectly svelte, has wrinkles all over, is frumpy (remember Lady Di and Prince Charles and of course, the famous Camilla).
Like Lady Di, peoples in the society sell the women the message that to be successful, loved, happy, you need to be really svelte, have a perfect no. 6 size , go under the knife, glicolic acid, whatever so your guy will stick around. This profits only the peoples in the business. Believe that the old proverb "Love is in the eyes of the beholder"is a really useful one when you are about to invest in a dress, shoe, beauty products, etc. There is no formula to be a wonderful "girl", just be yourself (size 6, 8, or even 22), instead of aiming to be a French, American or whatever race of girl. These formulas are funny to read but frankly, they don't work in real life.
76 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2003
Je suis Française, du Canada, mais Française tout de même. Je déplore ce genre de bouquin. Que de stéréotypes! La beauté du genre humain est dans ses différences, donc mesdemoiselles et mesdames des États-Unis, appréciez qui vous êtes dans votre culture et dans vos qualités plutôt que de chercher à ressembler à ce qui n'est pas VOUS. Soyez fières d'être Américaines comme je suis fière d'être Canadienne-Française et jetez ce livre à la poubelle. Votre façon d'être toute naturelle et votre personnalité, si vous l'assumez et vous l'aimez, fera de vous quelqu'un qui a ce "je ne sais quoi". Croyez en vous-mêmes, pas en un livre...
I am French from Canada, but anyway, I'm French. I deplore that kind of book. So many stereotypes! The beauty of human gender is is its differences, so, Miss and Misses from USA, appreciate who you are and do not try to look like someone else. Be proud of being American like I'm proud of being French-Canadian and put this book in garbage. Your natural way of being yourself and your personnality, if you assume it and if you like it, will make you the person with that "je ne sais quoi". Believe in yourself, not in a book... And I'm sorry for my poor translation.
61 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2003
This is the first book I have read cover to cover in ages! Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. It is brimming with insights on French culture and offers advice on how to incorporate some French etiquette/style into your own life.
For example, while most American women will form some sort of bond within a few minutes of meeting each other on a park bench (which usually leads to confiding intimate details of your life to a person you met a half hour ago), French women are much more guarded about what they say, when they say it, and who they even speak with. In other words, think before you speak. Don't divulge your life story within a few hours or even days of meeting someone new. Keep quiet and you will also keep an air of mystery to you.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the way French women handle themselves and their daily lives. A side note: Ever wonder how French can take those extra long lunches you always hear about? The book mentions that a 35 hour workweek is the law in France. Also, French citizens receive at least 4 weeks of PAID vacation per year! Mandatory! Oh, the luxeries!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2005
This was great and I love how another reviewer called it "frothy nonfiction." That describes it perfectly well. I have a large family and my bathroom is off limits. I go in there to read. This is in there and I have enjoyed it! Obviously the author is in the upper crust of society where all of her friends have roots in the country and have a place to retreat to-- but I like reading about *that class*-- I would not read about moms with big families who suffer through difficult situations to have fun. This was a fun read.
I started finding my "inner Frenach girl" as soon as I started reading the book. It's easier to find your inner French girl than it is to emmulate Martha Stewart (I love Ms. Stweart-- she is just impossible to try to work in to my life.) I immediately slowed down my dinners because I liked how the French girl takes time to eat and doesn't eat it all at once. My son with special needs tends to gobble his food so I started serving the food course by course instead of all at once. It worked. He even likes me serving the cheese at the end of the meal and is trying hard to eat nicely.
The French girl has limited space, the author says. I started thinking like I lived in Paris in a small apartment and actually got some rooms decluttered and clothes out of the house. Dressing nice is easy when you have five or six really nice things to change around your wardrobe.
My daughter was about to break up with her first boyfriend-- she read how *the French girl* views relationships and she handled it with class and finesse.
What impressed me was how this was going to be a fun read but it would up being a catalyst for making some nice adjustments in my life! I reccomend it for being fun to read but also, if you want to add flare to areas where you'd felt dull, it is inspiring.