In the last couple years, living so close to France has fed my infatuation with everything French. Art, (translated) literature, food, pharmacy products, words I can barely pronounce (usually sounding like Hodor from Game of Thrones), music, you get the idea.
Another aspect of the French culture – if we can call it this way – I was always really eager reading about is the mystery surrounding the French woman, and particularly the Parisienne. So I succumbed to the temptation (aka. its promotion on every women’s site and magazine imaginable) and purchased How to be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits.
Firstly, it is profoundly a coffee table book.* Short and perky essays, a pretty large fond, lots of photos and illustrations, high quality paper, and a minimalistic, chic cover.
It is quite stereotypically written, but I suppose one cannot expect about 1 million women to dress, think, love, and live adhering to exactly the same rules? Moreover, it consists mainly of aphorisms, written in a humorous but slightly doctrinal way.
But here’s where the oxymoron of the Parisienne comes into play: Even though she is supposed to abide to all these rules about beauty and style and love and lifestyle, deep down she’s just another rule-breaker.
To quote the introduction of How to be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits,
“Parisiennes aren’t privy to a secret “skinny” gene, they aren’t always easy to be with, and aren’t all perfect mothers. In fact, they are very imperfect, vague, unreliable, and full of paradoxes. But they can also be funny, attentive, curious, and ironic and they know how to enjoy life.”
The last sentence summarizes what I liked in this book: The focus on joie de vivre, the importance of spending time alone, building friendships for life, valuing self-education (for instance, the one you get from reading classic literature) more than material goods, and, oddly enough, why it is important to remain a bit selfish even as a mother.
How to be Parisian Wherever You Are is a book that can be read quickly, you can pick and choose which essays you’d like to read, skip some parts you’re not so interested in reading. I keep it around and page through it every time I need to unwind and have a good laugh.
The Flâneur verdict: Nothing groundbreaking, but enjoyable nonetheless. A very aesthetically pleasing coffee table book, but not necessarily more. An in-between for people who like magazines, but would like to give books a try.
*I own an Instagram-worthy coffee table and several coffe table books – look mom I am a fully-fledged adult!