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 trés 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.