For centuries, French women have been admired and imitated. When I was in my early twenties, I watched Meg Ryan in the movie French Kiss, competing (but not really) with a French woman she had lost her fiancé to. Back then, I wondered why the quirky, funny, blond, beautiful character Meg played just seemed to accept her fate? Why she gave up, why she thought she couldn’t compete against the sultry Parisienne – what made her give up even without really trying?
I love France. I’ve never been there but Paris is the city I dream most of visiting. I am a total Francophile – I’ve been learning to speak French for a long time, I wear a beret whenever I can, count Amelie as one of my top 5 movies. As a bonus, I even eat French fries at every possible occasion 😀
But seriously, around the world, French women are seen as quintessential icons of feminine allure and the success of the book How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are banks on your acceptance and envy of that status. What then do French women have over us? Are they superior examples of femininity or have we elevated them to that status with our beliefs? Is the superiority something they have earned or that we have given away willingly?
How to be Parisian is really just a glamorous set of rules, a list of assets that might or might not be characteristics of actual Frenchwomen – I find it hard to believe an entire culture of women behave in a similar way – what of personality differences, religious persuasion, parental influences, personal experiences, differences in goals, etc.? Am I to believe that all the women in Paris are at any point having babies without wanting to settle into marital relationships, because marriage isn’t glamorous but single motherhood is? Am I to assume that all Parisiennes are rude, outspoken, rebellious, that they love art, are always late and are incredibly snobbish? Or are these just the select few that I should be admiring and taking notes to imitate? I don’t buy it!
That said, the book is a fun read if you like lists (which I do), if you like books that poke fun at the self-help culture and the inane idea that all people need to do is follow some rules and imitate someone else and their lives will be better.
Some of the ideas are really cliche. Some of the pages are downright ridiculous. But when reading it, you could be in the middle of a serious-sounding passage and find something that makes you burst out laughing. And humor is the number one characteristic I look for in a book like this one.
So overall, I totally recommend How to be Parisian for a light afternoon read – I made it through the entire book on my commute to the outer boroughs and I giggled for most of the train ride.
Rating: 4/5 stars