A Day with Marie Antoinette
Written by Heléne Delalex
I picked this up in the gift shop at Versailles and it is a fascinating read filled with beautiful visuals. Love her or hate her, Marie Antoinette led one of the most fascinating lives in history that still pulls influence today (although I am glad that Pantone is the modern colour matching system for designers and industry and not, as this book describes, inspired by royals such as “Caca Dauphin”—or princely poop—a hue once in vogue).
Favourite line: “Kings lack for nothing but the pleasures of a private life: their sole consolation for this great loss may be the charms of friendship and the loyalty of their friends.”
A great, quick reference to everything about Napoleon Bonaparte from the context of French society and culture leading up to his reign, major milestones in his life, victories in battle (and defeats) as well as secondary characters that propped or foiled his legacy.
Favourite line: I always enjoy learning about Napoleon’s Egypt campaign.
We’ll Always Have Paris: Trying and Failing to Be French
Written by Emma Beddington
Based on the title and synopsis—which was misleading—I assumed this book was a travelogue on trying to integrate into French society after relocating there from English shores. This apprised approximately a third of the book (the portion I managed to complete). The remainder turned into a memoir on the author’s struggle with untreated mental illness and how it affected her life, family and career. The book is certainly well written and I applaud the author for laying herself bare, warts and all, but the seemingly unending negativity (especially how terrible French people are, which has been my opposite experience) got grating after awhile and I became disengaged. There was something missing from her words, perhaps a self-realization, that prevented me from viewing her as anything but that antagonist in her own life. Not recommended, unfortunately.
WTF?! What the French
Written by Oliver Magny
The first few chapters of this book started out as a tongue-in-cheek look at stereotypical French life with sections on beauty, sex and dating, and the consumption of bread (so much delicious bread). But as I continued, there was a darkness that ruined it for me such as support for Marine Le Pen and the far-right National Front party and repeated passages on how immigration is ruining the country. This may provide insight into a sliver of the French population but it isn’t well-written enough to be regarded as actual anthropological data.
Written by Jean-Claude Gautrand
The hardcover version of this book has rested on my coffee table for years and is one of my all-time favourites for when I need a jolt of inspiration (or a bittersweet reminder of travels past). With images chronicling the last three centuries of its history and development, the viewer is carried through an immersive, glorious photographic essay on the City of Light and its citizens.