My preoccupation for several years now has been to try to understand -- really, really understand my adopted country and particularly the women whom I find the most fascinating creatures of all. How over the centuries they've used their charm, cunning, intelligence and exquisite taste in dressing, decorating and the fine arts to change their epochs.
I want to be able to sit at a lively dinner party in one of the few pieces of YSL or Chanel I've owned for years; with my new filmy lingerie beneath; my hair perfect, but not too perfect; my makeup applied with a fine, light hand; in a cloud of my favorite perfume a glass of Champagne in hand and participate in conversations that turn around French history, remarkable Frenchwoman and the complicated rules, rites and intrigues of the kings' courts. Sublime.
As for the other choices they're an unrelated collection of books I've loved for years or as in the case of the Castaing biography, just discovered. Her biography and that of Chanel are in French, but are magnificently illustrated and are worth owning I think. Furthermore they make stunning coffee table tomes, you'll go back to time and time again.
1.) The Josephine Trilogy by Sandra Gulland (historical fiction, but full of delicious factual details.)
2.)The Essence of Style by Joan de Jean (I know I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again.)
3.) Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford
4.) A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (for very personal, very romantic reasons)
5.) Le Temps Chanel by Edmonde Charles-Roux (the author knew Chanel)
6.) French Ways and Their Meaning by Edith Wharton (wonderful)
7.) Madeleine Castaing by Jean-Noel Liant
8.)Madame du Barry: The Wages of Beauty by Joan Haslip (juicy)
9.) Love & Louis XIV: The Women In the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser
10.) Larousse Standard French-English Dictionary (I couldn't live without it -- obviously)