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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Read!
I admit it. I find French women fascinating. What's funny is that I don't even know any. Oh, but I've heard about them, and read about them, and tried desperately to try and learn to tie a scarf with panache. So when I stumbled upon, What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind by Debra Ollivier, I didn't even think twice before...
Published on April 11, 2010 by P. Greer

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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How French Women Seem When You're from LA
First off, be aware that the author is from Southern California and was apparently raised with so little culinary knowledge that she was impressed to find that a pie crust can be made from graham crackers and butter and that a man does not have to have gone to culinary school in order to know how to devein a duck liver. She was also raised in an atmosphere in which girls...
Published on September 27, 2011 by BLB


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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Read!, April 11, 2010
By 
P. Greer (Chattanooga, TN) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind (Hardcover)
I admit it. I find French women fascinating. What's funny is that I don't even know any. Oh, but I've heard about them, and read about them, and tried desperately to try and learn to tie a scarf with panache. So when I stumbled upon, What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind by Debra Ollivier, I didn't even think twice before adding it to my cart.

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?
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and fun, August 27, 2009
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What French Women Know examines the differences between French and Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards love, sex and life in general. This is no dry in-depth cultural study. Rather it is smart, sassy and at times downright funny overview of opposing viewpoints.

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.

4.5 stars
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It is Attitude Mon Cherie!, November 24, 2009
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It is always interesting to read how different cultures perceive life. According to author Ollivier, French women celebrate individual beauty, know how to handle the differences between men and women, embrace their own rules, don't mind a lack of perfection and enhance their femininity.

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
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How French Women Seem When You're from LA, September 27, 2011
By 
BLB (Oregon, USA) - See all my reviews
First off, be aware that the author is from Southern California and was apparently raised with so little culinary knowledge that she was impressed to find that a pie crust can be made from graham crackers and butter and that a man does not have to have gone to culinary school in order to know how to devein a duck liver. She was also raised in an atmosphere in which girls are raised to live in order to spend most of their social time in the company of other women, frantically trying to gain the approval of other women. No wonder France bowled her over.

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.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insights into the French culture of gender relations, August 30, 2009
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I loved Debra Ollivier's earlier book, Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, which is more of a how-to book on acquiring the je ne sais quois, sang froid of French girl chic that is more than effortless scarf-tying. That book was also an intelligent discussion of how some of the cultural differences that shape the average French woman differ from those shaping the Anglo-American woman. This book takes that discussion much further.

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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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars French women and romance, November 3, 2009
I liked this book for the quality of the writing as much as for the content. I hope lots of American women read it, though I don't think it will make too much of a difference in influencing the way they act with men. Just a hunch. In Boston/Cambridge, where lots of unfriendly young people abound, you can't even get eye contact on the street from 90 percent of the people--they're all on their cell phones managing their lives, not being present. And this is a college town. Before you can flirt, and go outside your comfort zone (like French women apparently can) you have to be able to trust, take chances, and know and like yourself. Perhaps that's what the French women are grounded in from childhood, not to mention feeling good about sex. American women, in my experience, don't express their feelings well; asking for what they want--especially regarding sex and love. When I was a teenager (now 60) and heard Diana Ross and Linda Ronstadt sing, it was an incredible turn on for me; discovering that women have sexual desire and love desire for a man. I rarely experience it from American women which is why this book gave me hope. I may or may not get along with a French woman but I'm glad they are out there being steamy. Hope springs eternal.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vive la différence!, August 17, 2009
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"What French Women Know" is a well written, engaging analysis of the differences between women in French and US society. The author examines literary sources, historical figures and modern mores to expose and explain the French woman and her mystic.

The book is divided into seven chapters; each chapter focuses on a different piece of the French woman's stereotypical allure. An analysis of chapter one, "Men", is helpful in explaining the authors approach to her examination of French women. In this chapter the author compares and contrasts French and American women's relationships with men. She sees American women as having almost an adversarial relationship with men and a sisterhood with other women. French women, on the other hand, seem to consciously adore men and are a bit chilly toward their own gender. This basic difference is examined and various explanations are served up. The author sees differences in socialization as having a major impact on gender relations. (Interestingly enough, the author notes that the French don't dote on gender differences, seeing the sexes as more "like kind"). The author explains that French society does not segregate the sexes in the way American society does socially. Sexual homogony is not a desirable feature at a dinner party in France. (So much for girl's night out!) Differences in Social status are also examined and explained. It would seem that historically women have been listened to and revered in French society in a way they have not in America. The author offers up Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, as an example of French societies attitude toward women. Marianne is political, she is passionate, she is comfortable in the company of men and represents all members of society, she is also in possession of a pair of perfectly proportioned breasts, which she proudly displays Au naturel. She notes that American women would be hard pressed to find a similar figure in our society. Yes, we have the Statue of Liberty, but then, she was a gift from France.

The next six chapters provide a succinct analysis of the French woman's approach to: Mystery, Rules, Perfection, Nature, Art De Vivre and Body.

The book is an effective mix of observation, anecdote and historic analysis. There is something here for thinking women of all ages and nationalities.
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78 of 99 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Are you kidding??, January 15, 2010
By 
Robynn (Seattle, WA.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind (Hardcover)
I just saw this author on an interview. Hearing what she had to say, I will not touch this book with a ten foot pole.
I have many relatives in France, I have lived in France, I travel frequently to France and my spouse is French. This woman is full of hot air. French women have the same relationship issues as we have in US. I know this for a fact. They also have the same body insecurities we have in the US; even more so. One thing I will say is that plastic surgery is not common place. BUT ALL of the French women I know attend 'fat' spas YEARLY! Three of my cousins are on Weight Watchers. Being overweight is very 'ugly' and undesirable in France; hence the pressure is high to be slim. Go to Paris right before summer and the pharmacies are full of ads on how to lose weight and what cream works on cellulite. The shelves are always full of diet products and tonics. They dont care about lingerie????? They spend a major portion of their earnings on intimate apparel! They are famous for this!!
The only cultural difference I have noticed is that when it comes to their men, most French women are suspicious of all females. They do not form close bonds with other females because of this. Please stop idolizing and understand that no matter where you go, we all have insecurities and when the heart is involved, the same fears. She claims that there is no word for 'dating'. 'Sortir' translates directly into 'going out' which to French people means DATING. Also, sorry to say that word 'popular' does exist.
I am so tired of every Jane Doe trying to make a buck by making up this nonsense crap about French women this, French women that. There must be some feeling of inferiority or complex. Underneath it all we are all made of the same cloth.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pigeonholes American women, November 22, 2009
Amusing, sure. Factual? Hardly. Has Debra been away from America so long that she forgot what the people are like, or did she just grow up in a bubble?

Let me just say that the female friends in my circle don't read Cosmo like it's the Bible, aren't afraid to sleep with someone on the first "date," aren't overly concerned with getting married, aren't obsessed with cleaning, and don't hate men. Does this make us an anomaly? Doubtful...it's not 1950.

I wanted to get a feel for how French women compared to American women, but I couldn't identify with her portrayal of American women. Perhaps this tells us what we should have already known: that women of any country can't be accurately portrayed with generalizations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Read, March 22, 2013
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I, like many other reviewers, bought Ollivier's first book on the subject-Entre Nous. Since I enjoyed that book so much I decided to also purchase this one. Yes, it does have a lot of the same examples, HOWEVER, I felt that in this book she took those examples and went into much more detail on them so I didn't mind at all. While I loved Entre Nous, I found this to be the much better book because the informatin was clearer and more detailed.

I read most books like this because I'm a graduate student with an emphasis on French culture AND I'm married to a Frenchman. Ollivier's book, to me, is the best that I have read in this genre, and the one that comes closest to real French culture (aimed at a normal, female audience and not scholars). I would recommend this book.
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