Book Review: How to be Parisian Wherever You Are

via  Amazon

via Amazon

I remember in high school on of my friends from class told me, “You look like you belong in Europe.”  I don’t remember what we were talking about or why she thought that. I had big dreams of moving to Europe at the time, so I took it as a compliment.

I still daydream about living in Europe. Sometimes I want that effortless French girl style and a Tuscan fixer-upper farmhouse even though I know it’s all overly idealized and stereotyped.

So when I spotted How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits while milling around a bookstore, I knew I had to read it but I was wary. The book is written by four Parisienne friends: Anne Berest - a writer, Audrey Diwan - a scriptwriter and magazine editor, Caroline de Maigret- a model, Chanel ambassador, and music label founder, and Sophie Mas - a film producer.  (video link for email subscribers)

They cover a lot of ground--from style to favourite breakfast spots--using photos, vignettes, quotes, recipes, and more. They start with a list of aphorisms like: “If you only own one sweater, make sure it’s cashmere.” Ok, I can get on board with that. S, who was sneakily reading over my shoulder, tapped one further down: “Take a deep breath and keep it simple.” He then gave me a look that said, “Yeah, you could learn some things from this.” Hmph! 

As it turns out, he was right. The book is funny, irreverent, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It's not for everyone, but if you like this video, you'll probably like the book. 

It’s also full of good-hearted advice on living well. I chose a few favourites to share.

On Natural Beauty

Parisiennes will have you believe that they are born with perfect skin and delightfully messy hair. That from the cradle onward they exude a scent worthy of Chanel No5. That these “natural” attributes are a heritage that cannot be explained.

They are all lying.

Au naturel is the fruit of hard labor; meticulously passed down from generation to generation.

On How to Spend a Parisian Weekend

Eat croissants and buttered toast for breakfast—beause it’s Saturday morning and you burned enough calories last night, damn it.

Agree to (at least a little) exercise but only in “beautiful” surroundings: a run in a picturesque public park or a swim in a historically listed pool.

Go to the market on a Sunday morning with your wicker basket. Prepare a delicious lunch with vegetables, fresh bread and salted butter.


On Taking Time

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. [. . .]

Take the time to take time because nobody else will do it for you.

I enjoyed this book in small doses. I found it best to flip through until something caught my eye. It’s not a book that needs to be (or should be, in my opinion) read from cover to cover. It's the kind of book I would keep on my shelf and pull down to rediscover from time to time. 

What I really liked is that the Parisienne in this book is not perfect. She’s has her faults and bad habits. Her lifestyle isn’t really as effortless as we want to think (or have been led to think, perhaps). She is, however, confident. Living life well, fully, and freely is important to her. I don’t think that attitude is singularly Parisian, but I think they do a damn good job of it and How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are is a fun way to tap into it.