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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
While this book started out fun it got extremely repetitive as I continued on. Obviously I expected the author to exhalt the sense of joie de vivre the French have, but it did get a little tiresome as it turned into an "us against them", us being the French and them being the rest of the world-especially American's. I am also half French via Quebec, Canada and have sat through many of those wonderful, loud family dinners with everyone gesticulating and passionately engaged. I think there is much we can learn from the French when it comes to taking the time to smell the roses and I certainly envy them their health care and those vacation days. However, the author seems to see the French through rose colored glasses to the point of it becoming ad nauseum. Even the rude service people, ridiculous rules of verbal etiquette, and snotty Parisian women are absolutely wonderful. There is nothing that is not perfect in France. There are also some hypocritical parts in the book. In one case, the author thinks it's perfectly wonderful that if the French invite you to dinner and say "Around 8" they certainly don't want you to be early and they don't even want you to be there at 8:00. However, she takes exception to American's telling their guests to "Come early" if they want, because she feels it means they want their guests to leave earlier. What's the difference? The French don't want you early, the American's don't want you late. A simple cultural difference. But why is it wonderful for one and wrong for the other? I also didn't like the stereotyping of the French or the American's and other European's ie. all French women are sexy and no American woman, no matter how attractive, could ever be sexy. I have read many books about France that are far more honest, exhalting both the good and the bad, and therefore more real. Yes, there are wonderful things about France, and amazingly enough there are some not so wonderful things about France, just as there are wonderful and not so wonderful things about America and American's. I am of an open mind when it comes to seeing that there are good things about many other countries/cultures but I'm also aware that no one is perfect. I can honestly say that, unlike the author,one of the last things on earth I would ever want to be is one of those stuck up Parisian women obsessed with looking perfect, dumping her kid in daycare as soon as it's born so it doesn't have to cramp her style, putting people down, and being as catty and rude as possible to other women. I much prefer to be a friendly woman who smiles at people. However, I would like that 35 hour work week, the vacation time, and the free health care. I think all American's could learn from the French the art of taking the time to smell the roses and to enjoy the time we have here on earth with our families and friends rather than being stuck at work. I think most American's feel that way. I certainly don't know anyone who wants to work MORE. Now if we can only convince our bosses we might have a chance!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a longtime Francophile, I've read many books about France, ranging from Henry James's « A Little Tour in France » to the tomes celebrating picturesque Provence and the French Eating experience. It's rare to have an in-depth look at the French and life in France from an American long-term resident who married into a French family and has honed her power of observations so adroitly. I read Ms Rochefort's first book French Toast about 15 years ago. It was very funny and as light as a delicious soufflé. Ms Rochefort's new book, Joie de Vivre, features many of the same characters, now grown up, and the tale she tells is definitely more meaty. And like the ripening of a fine wine, it brings out the essence of why the French are at once so maddening and so utterly appealing and charming. That dichotomy makes perfect sense under the pen of Ms Rochefort. She does a fine job in explaining the French and clues you into the hows and whys of those specifically French ways of acting, doing and being. And little by little, her love for the country of adoption and her pleasure hits you strongly. This is a must read for all you Francophiles and their children who just might buy a one-way ticket to Paris after reading Joie de Vivre.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
After reading this book I ordered 3 extra copies to give to friends. For anyone interested in anything having to do with France, you MUST READ THIS BOOK! It is the culmination of 40 years of a personal journey - keen observation, analysis, and attempts to assimilate into a French family by a young American woman who goes to France after college and marries a Parisian. While her first book, French Toast, is a more light hearted description of her adaptation process, this latest book, Joie de Vivre, completes a trilogy of her experiences with EVERYTHING French - politics, opinions and how the French express them, food, fashion, education, medicine, social life, family life - you name it. It's a veritable Larousse on anything any curious person would ever want to know (and more) on the French. As I neared the end of the book I started thinking that it is really a love story, as the author's admiration and appreciation of her husband and his country jumps out at you on nearly every page. Her ease and sincerity in relating personal experiences and observations make easy to read short chapters on every imaginable topic that will give the reader a better understanting not only of the French, but of Americans as well. A delightful book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
"I love their talent for finding joy in the moment without wondering what's next." So Harriet Welty Rochfort describes her adopted compatriots and the man with whom she has shared a 40+ years marriage. Another Amazon reviewer has said that this book is one-sided because its author went to Paris as a very young woman from rural Iowa and found such a stark contrast with her own prior life experience that she tips the scales in this book heavily in favor of the cosmopolitan French. The reviewer contends that if Harriet had lived in the larger American cities, she would find that urban Americans are very much like the French she describes. I beg to differ. Having lived my entire life in Chicago, spent times in NYC, Boston, and Washington D.C., there are some subtle and not so subtle differences between ourselves and the French -- differences we could learn from that would make our lives far more pleasurable and joyful. For me, one of the most striking ones is this: Few Americans I know are as comfortable living in the moment as the French. Lunch in the US is rarely savored, lingered over. When we do take time for our meals, it's often the exception to the rule and sometimes even done with more than a little guilt and one eye on the clock. Unlike the French, we eat at our desks all the time and pat ourselves on the back for our strong work ethic. And despite all that rush and worry, the French, who routinely take two hour lunches and month long vacations, are more productive than we are. Could it be that they are renewed by taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: good food, stimulating conversation, the beauty of other people passing in the street? Rochfort's book goes a long way toward educating nonFrench people about the ways our lives could be richer, fuller, happier, and simpler by following the French example.

Something she says in the chapter "Hanging Out Without Feeling Guilty," reminded me of a conversation I had with a French friend several years ago. I was talking about not having had a vacation in some time and about all the work I had to do on my job ... just not being able to get away. He said, "I love my job, but I don't live for my job. Life is not for that. You should be more French." I've spent the years since trying to do exactly that. And Harriet's book provides a wonderful way to explore what that looks like in lived experience as well as in all of the health and other benefits that come from living French. (Incidentally, Harriet provides "Some Hanging out Homework" that I can hardly wait to do!)

Joie de Vivre has a particular relevance at this point in US history. Social programs are under attack and companies are increasingly disinclined to care for the well-being of their employees ... citing cost and wanting to get as much work out of workers as they possibly can. Having a successful alternative model might give us the necessary inspiration to think differently about both our work and our personal lives. Rochfort recounts the difference having a virtually free college education can make in the life prospects of young people. She talks about the mandated vacations and the resulting health benefits and improved productivity. The success of French companies. The national health care system. And she echoes my French friend, "the French like their jobs and they like money as much as the next guy. In their minds though, the job and the money are linked indissolubly to what really counts: family life and personal happiness." French culture reflects these values. The care of children, the benefits to families, the care for the elderly ... this is a country that does more than just talk about how much families are valued.

There really is a more user friendly way of living one's life. And the French have found it. To share it with her readers, Rochfort interweaves her own life experience with research in both contemporary and historical works and interviews of Parisians and Parisiennes. I'll end by citing one of her sources, the journalist François Hauter, writing in Le Figaro: "France is savored slowly, like a glass of very good wine ... She whispers to you: don't hope for the impossible, the only thing that counts is joie de vivre." Bien sûr!
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Americans are fascinated by the French. Love them or loathe them, French people exude a certain mystery for us, from their style, to how they dine, think, and live. Harriet Welty Rochefort is an American who married a Frenchmen and by default, thinks she has figured out what makes the French tick (from an American point of view). I didn't read her first book, French Toast, but I just finished Joie de Vivre, Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012). The idea is a cute one and the author is an adept writer, but I couldn't stop thinking that Ms. Welty expresses her French experience through very myopic eyes. She is, after all, not just an American, but one who lived in Iowa as a young woman, and who traveled to France right out of school and never returned to America. Instead of growing up and getting "polished" in an urban center of the United States, where she would really see how life is in the "big cities," she married and stayed in France. When the author observes the things that make French people so unique and full of "Joie de Vivre" she seems to forget that sophisticated Americans do many of the same things as the French she is so enchanted with. I just kept thinking (as I read her book) that Welty doesn't have a comparison to adult life in the USA, since she didn't live here as an working adult woman with a family to attend to. Perhaps, that is why she opines that Americans are unhappy, boorish oafs who eat junk food and have no class, have no fun, can't take a joke, and never stop in a cafe for coffee (let alone take time to include little "niceties" in their lives). It seems seems, for lack of a better word, a bit unfair. While Welty has some interesting observations of "us vs them" I am also fairly certain from my own observations in Paris, that not every French man, woman or child really lives, thinks and loves the way she enthusiastically and glowingly, depicts. Large urban centers, including Paris, have plenty of harried, anxiety prone people who balance too many things, don't take enough time for themselves, and hardly ever prepare multi-course feasts for their families and for dinner parties. Some certainly may do so, but saying that makes the French full of "Joie de Vivre" is as silly as saying all New York Women wear stilettos even when they have to run for a cab.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book changed my life! I love to travel to Europe, especially to France, and over the past fifty years I have learned that the best way to get the most value from a trip is to read as much as possible before departure. I enjoyed Ms. Rochefort's previous books. She has a gift for taking the reader beyond the museums and monuments and into the spirit of the Parisians. Her books are informative, yet entertaining and most importantly she provides a vital understanding of the attraction/aversion reaction many Americans experience in Paris. However, in her latest book Joie de Vivre, Rochefort moves beyond so many of the books which line the shelves in the travel section. She not only explains the "mysterious French" but she applies her keen observation skills, brilliant wit and authentic research to create an appreciation of their greatest treasure joie de vivre, a treasure buried in my busy life and in so many lives. Perhaps joie de vivre is easier to find in France with long vacation time and two hour lunches but it is something I had neglected and according to Rochefort, I could revitalize in many easy ways. I had my doubts as I was running around trying to complete my endless "to do" holiday list. I actually ordered Joie de Vivre as a present for a friend. I certainly did not have time in December to read, maybe January or possibly on vacation next summer. I looked at the book before I started to wrap it and wondered if my friend would know if I opened it and read a few pages. A few pages led to a few chapters and a few wonderful life changes. The book was mine now, the perfect present to myself and my family.
I was amazed at the impact of small changes. Using the dining room for "dining" was almost as easy as using the kitchen table for eating and far more enjoyable. Even when we had dinner in the kitchen the food seemed to taste better with a small vase of flowers, candlelight and a new tablecloth. I was impressed with the difference. Perhaps I should take another look at the chapter "Having it All: The Pleasure of Being a Frenchwoman". Quick, easy and comfortable is my style except for very special occasions. Since I could never look like the beautiful women in magazines, movies, on TV and on the streets of Paris or NYC why waste time trying? Would a few more minutes using makeup or thinking about what to wear make a difference and to whom? Could Rochefort be right about how imperfections make you more attractive and that looking your best can enrich the visual experience of everyone's day? She was right again. I will never be mistaken for a French woman or understand how to apply all those sample eye shadows at the bottom of my vanity drawer. However taking a few extra minutes to get ready to go out has produced many encouraging compliments. Perhaps it is because I look better but I really think it is because I feel better about myself. I read Rochefort's book so I could continue to learn more about one of my favorite travel destinations and I did, but more importantly I learned about myself - how to slow down, recognize, nurture and enjoy the joie de vivre in my life.
I am just at the beginning of recognizing and experiencing joie de vivre. I am eager to continue the journey.
Do you think Victoria's Secret has a senior citizen section in their store??
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Joie de Vivre, Harriet Rochefort's third book about French manners and mores from an American perspective, is written, to borrow the author's own words in describing the French, with "flair, panache, brio, elan, and style." More thoroughly researched and documented than her two previous works, French Toast, and French Fried, this book could accurately be described as an "anatomy" of the many ways the French, as the book cover puts it, excel at "wining, dining, and romancing."

Rochefort is a transplanted American who married a Frenchman nearly forty years ago, and she has lived in France (mainly in Paris) ever since. A journalist by profession, Rochefort deftly and humorously dissects French eating habits, French mating rituals, and French "savoir-vivre" (etiquette).

If you're interested in discovering everything there is to know about typically French attitudes and behaviors that may have mystified if not miffed you, you need go no further than Rochefort's book. It is comprehensive in scope yet detailed and focused in its discussions of those quintessentially French ways of thinking and doing. You can find out how to set a proper table, what wines and cheese to serve, how to handle guests, how to dress for any occasion, how to relate to the grocer, the vintner, the butcher, and the cheesemaker or vendor. You'll find out what "form"means to the French, and you'll be delighted to learn that public confrontation and argument are not necessarily bad things when they're done according to those previously unwritten French rules that Rochefort reveals.

Reading this book will give you a greater, nuanced understanding of the French and will certainly expand your appreciation of all things French. I enthusiastically and unreservedly recommend Joie de Vivre. As Debra Ollivier, author of What French Women Know, put it, the book "perfectly deconstructs the mind and spirit of the French."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Mrs. Rochefort, an American happily married to a Frenchman for 40 years, is obviously ecstatic to be wining, dining and romancing. However, this book doesn't quite deliver the message. The food, we know, is terrific, fashions as well. But the petty backbiting among "les Parisiennes" and the surly behavior towards all outside the intimate family circle isn't a surprise to travelers.
The book does dissect, but with a scalpel coated with honey; after all, this is her home and that of her in-laws and children. Her observations only reaffirm those of any seasoned American who prefers not to be libeled because of white teeth and a clean body. We have yet to adorn ourselves with parfum to conceal the homey smell of rancid sweat. Those she interviews profess a clinging to sensuality fueled by this particular odor. Chaun a son gout, bien sur!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Joie de Vivre Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the Frenchappears to be written mostly for les juene filles but reading as a man, I enjoyed it immensely. The author's descriptions bring France - especially Paris - into living color. I could see les parisiennes, with their glorious Hermes scarves and their CFM heals dance off the page and sit at a table next to me as I enjoyed my cafe au lait. The author has obviously lead a magic life in France and she shares the bounty of it with us. If you've been to France and want to channel the experience or are just wanting to go, I recommend this book highly - I read it on my Kindle, but have ordered two hard backs as Christmas presents. Excuse me while I go out and buy a wheel of properly ripe Camenbert and a baguette.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I just finished reading Welty Rochefort's new book and found it delightful. But more than that, it made me realize just how much 'French' I still have in me and how much of the culture was instilled in me before leaving with my family at the age of 6. A lot of the descriptions about how children are brought up, the expectations, the preparation of the meals with so much care to details, the nonchalent way of dressing to perfection - all these things were so familiar to me. The author made a fine effort at deconstructing that intangible way of being French, through her own humorous anecdotes.
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