journalists have tackled the
thorny subject of "that French thing" in the just-released
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but not the French. Glad it was written by Canadians, not Americans, given that
title...still the book does a nice job looking past generalizations.
On a much lighter note are two books on the
French feminine mystique.
Fatale: How French Women Do It, by Edith Kunz, has a
great cover and plenty of entertaining, revealing reading on the myths
and the facts about French women.
Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl
is amusing, light-hearted, and frivolous -- perfect for
summer reading on the beach, the bus or the train.
Alistair Horne's The Seven Ages of Paris
has just been released, and promises to be worth a look. Horne has been
writing about France and Europe for decades, and this book is a
distillation of his love affair with the city of Paris.
Marie Antoinette: The Journey
has received rave reviews because of its attention to detail on life at
court in Versailles and its more
sympathetic treatment of the long-maligned little Austrian duchess who became the doomed queen of France.
According to Fraser, it was not she who uttered the infamous "Let
them eat cake!"
Other new biographies of famous françaises include
Madame de Pompadour, the "bad" mistress of Louis XV. Madame de Pompadour
(by French scholar Evelyne Lever and translated by
Catherine Temerson), is recommended as a beguiling biography by Publisher's
Another treatment by Colin Jones, Madame De Pompadour:
Images of a Mistress,
is a beautiful tome, published to accompany an exhibition
at the National Gallery in London through January 12, 2003.
War: The French, The Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, by Don and Pete
Kladstrup, chronicles the concurrent stories of
the wine industry and the Resistance during World War II.
Some of Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon,
a series of commentaries and essays on life in Paris, has appeared in the
New Yorker magazine over the past year or so. Worth a look...
Richard Bernstein's Fragile Glory
, written in the mid 1990s, offers great insights into why the French
are the way they are, from a cultural and historical perspective.
Robert Daley's Portraits of
France is one of our favorite collections
of essays on people and places French. Daley has written some pop fiction
that is entertaining, but this book shows his true writing skill and
special feel for France and its people.
Longtime Paris correspondent Jonathan Fenby has nicely chronicled what he
calls France on the
Brink published in 2000.
Polly Platt's French or Foe?
is an indispensable guide to visiting, living and working in France. A
quick read with lots of insights.
is a fast-paced, although somewhat light treatment of the Albigensian
crusades in southern France. If you're interested in the Cathars, medieval
feudal controversy, this might satisfy.
Gustav Sabon has written personal reflections on the shards of French
history and culture in Luminous
Upon re-reading Irene Caro's The Road from
the Past: Traveling through History, we realize again what a
great book this is. Must read if you're into traveling through history.