21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2011
This is a collection of wonderful tales and ideas that offer sheer inspiration, and literally teaches each and every one of us to enjoy life and give ourselves a break!
The author, Jamie, speaks about Grandma. Grandma was a tall, slim, elegant woman, with jet black hair that'd turned silver over time. Grandma had the `French' inside of her and she was the essence of a lady who knew all about "the art of living." A tender moment that Jamie and her Grandma shared was when Grandma used to shampoo Jamie's hair, and twist it into curls that made her resemble Shirley Temple. Jamie absolutely loved it when Grandma did this, because not only did she take her time, but she also used to send a smile to her granddaughter in the reflected mirror. That smile held more than love; that smile spoke volumes about a woman who'd truly lived and enjoyed every minute of it.
In honor of her Grandmother, as well as wanting to find out exactly what it is that makes Frenchwomen seem far more happy and content than American women, Jamie traveled through France. Living and studying in a small town called Auvillar, Jamie threw herself into the French life - from everything to wine, cheese, and real butter - to how they feel about romance, and living life to the absolute fullest. The French woman - no matter what their socio-economic class, don't spend all their time worrying about money and how `skinny' they look. They have this amazing optimism and they truly love each and every experience - whether good or bad - simply because it is the "moment" that they're living in.
This author offers wonderful stories that touch on dance, food, the power of the `dinner table' where families used to meet and actually speak to each other, and the power of handwriting - keeping it elegant in this ridiculous electronic world. She speaks about how age is a beautiful thing. Age means that you have traveled - you have lived - and there is nothing sexier than that. She teaches us that old dreams should be revitalized - that life is too short to set aside what you want and desire to simply pay the bills, and nothing else. These observations of life, dedicated to her Grandmother, are beyond enchanting. And all readers, including myself, could learn some wonderful lessons from these truly inspiring tales. Bravo!
Amy Lignor, [...]
53 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2011
I cannot stress enough how much I disliked this book. I am a total francophile. I love all things French. I really wanted to love this book and was excited to receive it. The more I read the book, however, the less excited I became. I barely managed to finish it. It has more to do with the author's disturbing memories of her unstable mother than it does with finding joie de vivre. The author talks about herself enough for the reader to get a strong sense of her; unfortunately she comes across as incredibly insecure, needy, and completely unoriginal. The book is poorly written and the tone conveys frantic desperation rather than any sort of joy. The few chapters that she begins to handle passingly well barely skip along the surface of the topic before rushing on to more bitter recollections. Whole sections of the book read like the author speaking to her therapist. It is neither in in-depth look at happiness and changing your life nor a light, happy, French-inspired read. Instead, it's a bizarre attempt at a light, happy read draped over a base of self-loathing and mother issues. I would happily include examples, but I already donated the book. I absolutely do not recommend this book, unless it's as a gift for someone you don't like, or someone with a very limited intellect.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2011
Jamie Cat Callan's second book, BONJOUR HAPPINESS, is a compilation of observations and life lessons on how we can all discover the secrets to being truly happy. Jamie shares her thoughts with the reader through vignettes of her recent travels through France and memories of her French grandmother, all told with warmth and humor that make you want to read more (and join her on her French adventures!)
I connected with the author right from the introduction, when Jamie describes herself as a woman who often feels she is "not smart enough, not rich enough, not organized enough, not accomplished enough, not slim enough and definitely not young enough. All this to say I'm a typical American gal!" I thought, me too, and decided she might have some secrets that I could really use.
She does. With simple easy-to-take-home ideas, Jamie shows us how rediscovering our own joie de vivre is well within everyone's reach, no matter your age or body type. Halfway through the book, she reminds us that, "Everything you do in life has the potential to add to your happiness, your joie de vivre." You always have a choice, and throughout the book Jamie helps us see these choices and examine which ones truly make us happier.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2011
Does the author know that the French are the largest consumers of anti-depressants in the world and that there are pharmacies on every street corner in the country? Does she mention that young women, not-so-young, and older women still represent an alarming percentage of smokers in this country and the rate is increasing? Do you know one major reason why women smoke here? To keep thin. Instead of eating a croque-monsieur or a tarte aux pommes at lunch, they light up a cigarette. Does she mention that up until a few years ago (it's starting to change now, thank goodness) you NEVER saw a group of women going out for an evening and that female solidarity is a rare thing in this country? When I first arrived over 20 years ago, I thought I'd go out for a drink and maybe a meal with my female colleagues after work (like we used to do back home). It didn't happen. They ALL rushed home after work to serve dinner to their waiting boyfriends (in those days they weren't even married or with kids yet!) I was shocked. French women see other women as rivals, not friends. Jealousy is like an illness here, you have to watch your back. A lot of French women (not all) feel utterly incomplete without a boyfriend, fiancé or husband. As I said, things are slowly changing now (for the better). The author is a tourist just passing through while making surface observations. I'm tired of all these women "tourists" writing their shallow books on cultures they know little about. I'm betting that Jamie Cat Callen doesn't even speak one word of French.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2011
With so much hype about happiness, the most glorious part of Jamie Cat Callan's newest release is that she shows how it's the simple things that truly bring joie de vivre. From the very first sentence you will leave behind the hustle bustle of American life to say Bonjour, Happiness! As if traveling with a warm and chatty best friend Jamie takes you through France, a la the scenic route. Her personal discoveries weave through the delicious narrative as you meet French women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, single, married, in the city and the countryside, who share secrets, recipes, and tips to easily bring the art of French joy to any American girl. All great trips have highlights; some of mine include a shopping trip and a très tempting dress, people watching in a café, and a French Weight Watchers meeting. Each chapter cleverly ends with "French Lessons," the pleasures derived from matching lingerie, fresh vegetables and air, flirtation, and Fondue just a few I've happily taken home to New York.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2011
What a treat this book is. To trot out that dusty old marron (but w/a bit of glace), I did not want it to end. I thought the book would be full of what's: what the French do; what they eat, wear, do on vacation; what they think about aging, adultery, affluence, and affectation. And yes, there are lovely anecdotes scattered throughout the book that touch on these subjects. But what carried me was the author's sensitive, dead-on appraisal of differences between American and French thinking. The chapter on Weight Watchers in France alone is worth the price of the book. How kind the French are to themselves, Callan notes. While we Americans are apt to trudge dutifully to meetings, full of guilt and self-loathing for that half box of Oreos we scarfed down Tuesday, the French are more apt make a pleasant ritual, a party, of the experience.
The author shows us the many ways the French live their lives happily and yet with so much less in the way of material things. And how wise they are. The chapter, Le Jardin Secret, was something I wish I'd had when I was 21 years old and a newly minted English major, pitching herself into the world for the first time (and falling on her face more than once.....) Basically, the French have it ingrained in their collective psyche not to BLAB ALL. I mean, I bet the chances are good that those dear young things who want to become published writers someday do not tell their mom and dad and their friends and their alumnae quarterlies and facebook pals and twitter co-twits and boyfriends and high-school English teachers and grocery store cashiers. They keep their important stuff to themselves until the time is right (say, after the contract from Random House is signed). Callan quotes a wise French proverb: "Pour vivre heureux, vivon caches." (To live happily, live hidden.) There seems to be little in the way of intimate fireside chats, "dishing" (Callan's term), those American habits women have that bond us to one another quickly and easily. In France? Not so much.
Happiness is a weird concept. The definition keeps changing as we change. Where happiness used to be a warm puppy (age 6), lately (at age 53) it has morphed into 1) good news from the mammogram, 2) an email beginning, "You have been outbid.", 3) finding a place that sells cheap gas. The French, Callan show us, seem to have this notion very much in hand. No, they are not a nation of teeth-gleaming smilers, skipping down the rues and boulevards in the 16th arrondiseement. I eagerly await Callan's next foray into the world of the French; there are secrets still for her to uncover and share with us in her sweet but wickedly wise way.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2011
The only bit of new information I learned from this book is that Weight Watchers meetings are now held in France. For the most part, the book was nothing but an ad for Weight Watchers with a few French recipes thrown in. It was so badly written that I kept skipping forward just to get to the end of it and delete it from my Kindle. I don't like feeling I wasted my money so I at least have to skim a few pages here and there to the end of bad books. There are a lot of well-written books on the market, blogs, and other internet resources to get much better and more accurate information from than this book. Borrow a copy from the library if you must read this book because I think you'll be very disappointed - like I was - at having wasted your hard earned money on this piece of badly written fluff.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2013
Bonjour, Happiness! is not so much a book about the French as it is a book about how to pursue our own happiness. For Jamie Cat Callan's insights into how to "be the message" alone, this book is worth it's weight in gold. A surprisingly rich and tasty collection of wise advice that can easily be put into practice, this book should be read slowly and savored deeply. You will learn something about the French but more importantly you will become a better version of yourself each time you put it down. Satisfying. Paris Adieu
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2011
She wrote and wrote and finally, toward the end of the book, what she wrote almost became a readable draft which could have been edited into a book. Someone referred to this as a memoir, it is not. Mostly it is Francofile Froth, an advertizement for Weight Watchers and a rehash of French Women Don't Get Fat written for well to do middle class white "girlfriends" who don't mind swooning over everything French!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2011
I loved this book! Having lived for some time in Paris, I did come to feel that I had discovered some kind of corrective to the stressful, workaday life I had experienced as an American. Most of all, I had a chance to get outside my habitual frame of reference and discover the Joie de Vivre of which Callan writes. Her book is true to my experience and chock full of wonderful nuggets that can inspire us down paths to happiness. One of my favorites: "Happiness doesn't come from one giant leap--say from winning the lottery...but rather, happiness comes from taking baby steps that will lead you to your own personal bliss." And another: "Be alive to the world. Plant some herbs. Find joy in simple activities." Callan counsels us to be kind, generous, and patient with ourselves and others, a message surely in short supply in today's techno-crazy world. Great accounts of what must have been truly magical visits to the Old World as well as touching introspective accounts of her own life and relationships. I'm sure that many people will thoroughly enjoy this heartfelt book and derive great benefit from it. I came away calmer, more refreshed, and eager to snare just a bit more out of life.