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Sometimes the nicest things come in little packages. In honor of Olivia de Havilland’s 100th birthday, the publisher re-released a book she wrote in the 1960’s called Every Frenchman Has One. In the early fifties, after a failed marriage and a child, de Havilland visited France where she met a man, fell in love and married, and subsequently moved to Paris. The book is a collection of short sweet articles about adjusting to life in a new country and culture. Not an easy thing to do, even if you’re a famous movie star.

The pages are filled with de Havilland’s delightfully self-deprecating wit. She navigates the choppy waters of learning a new language by throwing herself headfirst into lessons often with less than stellar results. “Then there was the day I shook my professor. I’d been on a household shopping excursion and had been rather dismayed by the high cost of things. Well I don’t know if you see much difference between matelot and matelas, and I don’t know how you’d complain of the price of a mattress. But anyway I rushed in to my professor at lesson time in a state of outrage and indignantly proclaimed that I had discovered that French sailors were very expensive.”

The book is a quick breezy read, each short chapter describing an obstacle to overcome; shopping, health care system, buying a house, etc. Miss de Havilland would have made a darn good blogger. Her husband was connected to the magazine, Paris Match, and the book reads like a series of articles, so perhaps, they were. Each one whimsically relates the frustration of a stranger in a strange land, but also the charm of discovery, and the warmth of the French who were willing to embrace a newcomer. Lately, the French have gotten bad press as far as immigration is concerned, but by the last chapter, you’ll be ready to book the next flight to Paris.

I don’t know whether any of the France of the 1950’s exists today. Undoubtedly, much has changed as it has here in the States, but that didn’t decrease enjoyment of this book. I like to think the most important aspects in French life are constant; time spent with family, good friends, and a relaxed meal at the end of the day with the freshest possible ingredients. To this poor harried reader, it’s all tr├ęs charmant.

By the way, you pervert, what every Frenchman has is a liver (fois). If you want to know why it’s not only important but funny, read the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.


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