Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paris Was Ours

The top book I'm reading this week is Paris Was Ours.I can't put it down and neither will you. 
It won't tell you what to wear in Paris, though there's a chapter on 'Understanding Chic' by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni but I haven't read it yet...
It won't tell you which patisseries to go to either...
It will tell you what it's like to be an ex-pat in Paris and feel lost. Editor Penelope Rowlands starts off the introduction with,

'I'm a PARISIAN of the recurrent, revolving door kind.'

Later she reveals, 'We hated Paris and loved it all at once, and when we headed back to New York (after a year) we did so reluctantly.'

32 writers contributed their experiences of living in Paris, so there's something for everyone here.
The first exerpt by Veronique Vienne, (a terrific art director I illustrated for at SELF Magazine) tells of her tres difficile return to live in Paris - she'd forgotten many French ways after years in New York. "Living in Paris is "priceless," but it will cost you."
Veronique created one of the best and earliest how-to books on 'French Style'. I wish someone would reprint it...
Alicia Drake (of The Beautiful Fall) writes of those grey, metalic Parisian skies - it's not always champagne and roses bien sur.
Patric Kuh, now an LA food critic and author,
Gives the best description I've read yet of what it's really like to work in a French restaurant kitchen. Put your knives back in the drawer. And I thought only women had a tough time over there...
Why are French women thin? Could it be the strict rules and boundaries French parents set up in childhood? Dessert comes at the end of dinner, never first. I loved 'Parenting French-Style' by Janine de Giovanni.
Valerie Steiker in 'Fledgling days' remembers spending a year in Paris at 23, with high expectations of reliving her mother's inspired year abroad at the same age. The pursuit of her mother's joie de vie eludes her. 'I tried to comfort myself by thinking of one of my mother's sayings for not letting things get to you - "Let it glide over the back of your indifference" - but it didn't work.' Her story is poignant and endearing...
David Lebovitz tells all in the last entry, 'Enfin.' And David Sedaris admits his addiction to books-on-tape in English early days in France.
These are the stories we wish we could tell, not the tourist tales. As Judith Thurman writes "one of the greatest charms of having lived in Paris is the Proustian glamour of being able to claim that one did so.”
If you read Paris Was Ours on the subway as I did, be aware your laughter may frighten the other passengers. Now I'm off to read 'Understanding Chic' Bonne reading!



  1. I love that book! My parents gave it to me for my birthday before we left and it's one of my favorites. Strangely, I found Drake's story so sweet... it wasn't too depressing, no?
    "Understanding Chic" is adorable, though - you're in for a treat!

  2. Thanks for the heads up about "Paris Was Ours". Can't figure out why I hadn't already downloaded a sample to my Kindle, but that has now been remedied! LOve your pile of books! ;]

  3. I'm smitten Marie
    All our dreams of living in Paris are fulfilled by someone else with no bumps for us.


  4. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Hi Carol --

    I was so delighted to see this post just now! Thanks for the wonderful, flattering things you say about Paris Was Ours. I'm thrilled that you liked the book and so appreciative that you've told the world.

    I particularly love the thought of you laughing on the subway while reading it!

    By the way, I've just sent a link to this to Veronique Vienne, who's been a friend since the first time I lived in Paris.

    I loved the look and tone of your blog -- really gorgeous! -- and will keep reading. Thanks so much again,

    Penelope Rowlands

  5. Bookmarked (twice, thanks to David)! :-)

    Ex-pat stories fascinate me, for obvious reasons. ;-)

    Have you read David G. McCullough's "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris"?

  6. I just ordered it Carol...I can't wait to read it....Thanks for the recommendation....xv

  7. Here I am in less anonymous form (pressed the wrong button before!)

    merci encore, Penelope

  8. Great blog today! I've been living here over 16 years. Carol, as you know. Just find a café to make your own (ahem!) and you'll be just fine. Paris becomes your home even if you aren't French. It is a pretty perfect place to live! And so damn beautiful!!!!

  9. Carol you are so amazing and funny!
    You always give me a smile on my face when I check your blog. You've caught Paris just as it is with your photos, doodles and comments...
    Thank's for sharing!

  10. That looks like a winner!
    I love your photos and the graphics from the books - shows Paris in a bit of a different light, but still a wonderful place.

    1. Anonymous8:15 PM

      Suzanne Somers (1946-2023) American actress businesswoman commercial model singer songwriter dancer philanthropist and endorser.

  11. A must read!
    I'm talking about YOUR POST.

    The book, too

  12. Thank you for commenting Penelope!

    I've gotten so much pleasure from reading Paris Was Ours -
    I wanted to share 'le plaisir'.


  13. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Sounds like a wonderful read! Might have to look for this one :)

  14. This book is sitting next to my couch just waiting for me!

  15. Love Rick's advice! I guess Le Select is taken.... :-)

  16. Oh Carol, I know that I will love reading all these books (and am already a big David Sedaris fan) but keep on thinking ... what I really, really want to do is...
    be in Paris.

    Got to get there again soon. Meanwhile, guess my library will have to sustain me.


  17. I LOVED that book. I underlined, highlighted, starred, wrote margin notes. And come back and reread those parts. A seriously lovely book~

  18. PS Carol-I went back to reread my margin notes.....
    and was reminded of another reason LOVE this book. Read so much online....and that's wonderful. But the format size, cover photo, and the paper quality are all so evocative of French sensibilities (I know so son is French and I'm moving to France in Oct.).
    Esp the luscious and feels so good in hand. That's SO French.

    Wonderful post as always!! <3

  19. Thank you for mentioning it French Heart,

    I meant to note the Deckled edges of the book!!
    I too love the feel of Paris Was Ours - very nicely thought out.

  20. Anonymous9:31 AM

    So glad I found your blog. I very much enjoyed having a look around your studio and also the visual tour of 'Paris was ours'. I must go and order it. However, I just arrived a Paris a few months ago and am trying to decide if Paris could ever be mine :)

  21. It is a wonderful book. Even meaningful to me, though my sojourn was in Strasbourg...

    merci, Carol

  22. Well, I'm just going to have to make another foray into, aren't I? I'm enjoying La Seduction per your recommendation.

    Real life stories give a different kind of information than "how-to" books. All in all, I'd rather have grey days and feeling lost in Paris than where I'm at right now. (With car payments again, unfortunately...who decided she had to play the harp and need an accordingly BIG vehicle?)

  23. Carol,
    I'm sold. I need to get a copy of this. I'm sure there are so many things I can identify with - even better if it's for a laugh, too. Great review! Agree - it's not all Champagne and roses. When I first arrived in Paris it was terrifyingly fast: day 1 in the metro was witnessing a woman walking slowly and Monsieur busybody trying to get past her - finally screaming "Mais marchez!" Oh-là-là...

  24. Your last entry mentioned Veronique Vienne's book "French Style". I love how-to books on wardrobe building, dressing, fashion, and style; especially those based on a Paris or French mentality . I have always held Susan Sommers' "French Chic" as my favorite and will investigate finding a used copy of "French Style".

    Are there other French style/chic fashion, dressing, style, wardrobe based books that YOU would highly recommend?

  25. sounds wonderful...i was wondering what to read next. i'm just finishing a second (or third) reading of diane johnson's "Into a Paris Quartier" and am in the mood for more Paris!

  26. Paris was ours looks like a Summer must read!

  27. Your blog is BEAUTIFUL Carol.
    I really loved this piece.
    Thank you so much!

  28. Stanley5:10 AM

    I purchased Paris Was Ours a month ago and completed it in a few days.


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