How to be Parisian Wherever you are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits is a charming little book. In many ways it reminded me of Garance Dore's bestseller that I already reviewed here on this little place of mine. I'm not saying that Love x Style x Life plagiarized this one, but there are certainly many similarities between the two, even in the terms of graphic design and font choices for this book. I can't say that it bothered me, but I couldn't help noticing. That's just modern design- one might say. I'm not saying that isn't so, all I'm saying is that I noticed a striking similarity. However, I did like this book- I read it in a heartbeat.
Filled with gorgeous illustrations and photographs, tasty recipes, tips on being chic, and chit chat about Paris , it is a pretty cute book for sure. Most of all, it seems to be a book about what it is like to be a woman in Paris.
I don't mind reading about what it is like to be a women in Paris. If you don't either, it is highly possible that you will like this. Is this book worth the hype? I'm not sure if I can answer that question. Why? Because it depends on what you expect from it. This book is pretty chaotic- and whether you'll find that chaotic mix of tips, fashion, column-like writing and jokes ADORABLE or will you find it to be OVER-HYPED, well that depends on your taste. Personally, I don't feel like reading this book changed my life or anything, but I did enjoy reading it. So, let's begin reviewing this book.
Paris. The city of artist and dreams. Known also for its very stylish inhabits, it is considered one of the ultimate destinations for a fashion lover. A Parisian woman is an epitome of style. What is its secret? This book gives us some answers, but not in a textbook style. Its style is playful, if anything.
I'm going to include a lot of photographs in this review- because in many ways, it is a coffee table book....but still you're left with this feeling there is a bit more to it than meets the eye.
In fact, this book is probably best suited for those who can understand (and preferably enjoy) its self-ironic and sarcastic sense of humour. How to be Parisian is a book that doesn't take itself completely seriously.
|If you don't get this kind of humour, you might find it a bit cold, snobbish and pretentious. I really don't think it was ever supposed to be taken completely seriously, but then again who knows? Maybe that's part of its charm- not being quite sure of what it is supposed to be about. I can't claim with certainty that I get it- but I'm familiar with this type of humour- and that's how it sounds to me.|
Is this book something that would appeal to everyone? I'm not sure, but if you have a thing for French culture, I think you're bound to enjoy it- at least a bit. However, if you've already read similar books, you might find it a bit repetitive. I mean what is else to add when it comes to the topic of French chic? There are hundreds of books written about it.
Besides the funny and the sarcastic, there are also some touching parts of this book. In fact, some of them were very surprising in their candidness and vulnerability. One of the things that I enjoyed the most were those chapters about motherhood. This idea that you shouldn't build your life around your child but make your child a part of your life, teach him/her about the 'joy of living', well that sounds a lot better than all that 'I live only for my child' moralizing, which is sometimes just a disguise for possessiveness and victim playing.
Interesting fact about this book: it was written by four woman. Perhaps that is why this book is somewhat hard to describe, for despite the fact that it was written by four woman, it seems to be a work of a single author (albeit one that is prone to switch subjects all the time)- or maybe the four of them are such good friends they can end each other sentences? There is a bit of everything in this one, from French movie recommendations to lessons in feminism, but I ended up quite enjoying all that chaos. I would have preferred if the voices were a bit more distinct, this way I was left wondering who wrote what. That wasn't a deal breaker for me, though. I did enjoy reading this one.
Truth be told, most of the chapters on Parisian culture weren't particularly insightful to me, but then again I do own a Garance Dore book and read her blog quite often, so I've already heard a lot about the specific Parisian 'frame of mind'. Moreover, I think that many things that are listed here as being particularly Parisian or French, are actually typical of some other European countries as well.
We all seem to love that 'no make up', 'going to theatre all the time', 'having hundreds of books in our home', 'cooking at home', 'refusing to share our recipes, claiming that something that took us 4 hours to cook is nothing really', 'organizing dinners that last until dawn', 'arguing passionately about everything'. As far as I noticed, those things aren't particular only to France. They are common for many European countries- especially if we're taking about the more cultural/ intellectual parts of European societies.
Every generalization has its weaknesses- and some of them are evident in this one. In addition, we all have a tendency to describe ourselves when we're describing our culture. It is due to the fact that our personal identities are often linked with our cultural ones. Big cities are often a world to themselves- or at least they feel so- both to their inhabitants and those observing them from the outside.
I think this book does a pretty good job at describing both Paris and a Parisian but it is no profound study of France society (or Paris). It is more focused on its characteristics- and it is quite possible that you're already familiar with most of those.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this book lacks a distinct French taste because it doesn't- but many of its ' French characteristics' are ( or seemed to me) to be European. Speaking of which, I did feel at home reading this book- so much at home, that I might add it is one of the 'coziest' books I've read. I don't feel like I've learn a lot, but I didn't expect to, so all in all I'm quite happy with this reading. Perhaps the best way to enjoy it is to dive into it not expecting too much. On other hand, if you think this book is an actual handbook on how to be Parisian and you expect direct guidelines- you'll be disappointed.
It is the kind of book that you can read pretty quickly, even if you're not a fast reader....or you can enjoy it slowly- which is perhaps more advisable.
This book talks about all kinds of things, from French culture to the the art of kissing. There is even one part that gives useful recommendation when it comes to visiting and shopping in Paris. That insider's perspective was most welcome. There are also a lot recipes- and I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy those. Who doesn't want to try out some yummy French recipes?
More than anything, this book is a charming mix of profound (those passages on the importance of taking the time were ingenious!!!) and trivial (where to apply cold water- no thanks!). As I said, it's a bit chaotic, but it ties up well in the end.
| Some parts of How to be Parisian? Wherever you are were a bit boring to me, some were confusing (there are instructions on how to look like you're cheating when you're not and how to look you're not cheating when you're actually cheating- sounds like complicated stuff!) and some were quite poetic. Sounds confusing? It might, but really I think the book functions quite well this way. I would prefer a different editing, but that's just personal preference.|
“WHAT YOU WON’T FIND IN HER CLOSET * Three-inch heels. Why live life halfway? * Logos. You are not a billboard. * Nylon, polyester, viscose and vinyl will make you sweaty, smelly and shiny. * Sweatpants. No man should ever see you in those. Except your gym teacher – and even then. Leggings are tolerated. * Blingy jeans with embroidery and holes in them. They belong to Bollywood. * UGG boots. Enough said.” ― Anne Berest,
This book has one important lesson to offer and that one is: take the time! I absolutely loved that part of it. Life passes by so quickly, so it is really crucial to take the time. Take the time to breathe. We live in a society that encourages multi-tasking and time saving---but if we're not even certain who we are, and why we are here in the first place, if we don't know that- what is the point of all the time saving anyway? Do you know what I mean? Being productive is important, but sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves why. Why am I doing this? Sometimes we need to stop and remember to take the time to actually live our lives.
“TAKE THE TIME to talk to the elderly lady next door, to read a book, to walk to work instead of riding the subway when it’s a beautiful day. Take the time to escape for a weekend with friends. Take the time to listen and to get to know yourself. Take the time to change, to grow, to rest. Take the time to say yes, take the time to say no. Take the time to be quiet. Take the time to look after your body, to eat well. Take the time to ask yourself who you are and what you want.” ― Anne Berest,
“She’s Parisian, which is to say she’s melancholy. Her mood responds to the changing colours of her city. She can feel a sudden surge of sorrow or even hope for no reason at all. In the blink of an eye, all those lost memories and smells come flooding back, reminding her of loved ones who are no longer there. And time passing by.” ― Anne Berest,
Besides, the parts that describe motherhood, what I liked the most were poetic passages- there is some beautiful writing to be found in this one and it made me long for more. However, I did enjoy the book as a whole.
It is a light reading with a touch of depth and culture. Recommended to open minded readers who don't mind a bit of sarcasm and would like to know more about Paris. Not a great choice for those who like clearly organized books.
This book is a bit all over the place, but hey- I'd say that's a part of its charm. Not recommended to moralists and people who take themselves too seriously. Recommended to fashion lovers, but please note that you won't find that MUCH fashion in this book. It is not a style guide. It is a charming coffee book about what it is to be a Parisian- and that's pretty much it.
Thank you for reading!