Author: Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Anne Berest
Finished on: 3 October 2016
Where did I get this book: The Bluebell Wood charity shop in Chapeltown, Sheffield
I am very much not a fan of the self-help, or the ‘how to be…’ book. It’s not only that I find them irritating and cheesy, but mainly because I find them useless. Each of us is an individual, with unique tastes and experiences. It’s like trying to follow directions in Swahili. I am not going to get where I want to go. Unless, that is, I happen to speak Swahili too.
They also tend to be written with a real sense of arrogance. The idea that what are often subjective points of view can be universally and successfully applied to others: It has worked me, so it will work for you too; I am right, so do what I say.
So, all in all I didn’t have high hopes for this book. Despite my huge and longstanding love for Paris, I’ll admit I picked it up ready to be annoyed.
But I love it. I am almost embarrassed by how much I love this book. It is beautiful. It is hilarious. It is practical. It is wildly impractical. It is massively pretentious. It is completely self-aware and tongue-in-cheek. It is about living your life with passion, and celebrating the art of enjoying yourself.
When I finished reading it, I felt more joyful, more stylish, more interesting and more beautiful. This is not a book that leaves you feeling like you need to make any changes – except maybe to appreciate the ride a little more. Even the sadness and the set-backs in life are celebrated for the drama, and the stories.
Primarily this book is light-hearted fun, and I don’t mean to give the impression that it is in any way deep and meaningful. But it resonated with me. And we all love things that confirm that what we’re doing is good; that we’re getting it ‘right’. This book did reaffirm many things I agree with: that it doesn’t matter if things are expensive, it matters if they come with a good story; that you shouldn’t follow fashion, you should wear clothes than make you feel strong; that it’s the height of bad taste to wear clothes with an obvious ‘name’; that it’s ok for my children to fit around my life as much as I fit around theirs. But the truth is that there was also plenty in there that doesn’t work for me: I don’t like being late; I like smiling and generally being cheerful; I wanted my husband to ask me to marry him, and I wanted to take his name.
More than a set of rules and instructions though, this book is a philosophy and an attitude. It leaves you feeling so confident in your own sophistication, that where your preferences deviate from theirs, it only means you are more of an individual, and therefore even more fabulous.
Maybe this book works for me because the secret of ‘being Parisian’ is finding your thing, doing your thing, and loving your thing. Or maybe it’s just that these four ladies speak Swahili too, and so their directions take me exactly where I want to go.