Monday, July 27, 2009

TOP 10: Raves for Great Reads

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)


Marsi said...

I've wanted to read the Sun King bio by Fraser. I read her book on Marie-Antoinette and found it very accessible. I own several of the other books myself.

Wondering what you think of more recent books on the mythic French woman, such as Olliver's "Inner French Girl" and the Guiliano books? And what about the ancient classics, "French Chic" by Suzanne Sommers and "Paris Way of Beauty" by Linda Dannenberg?

tishjett said...

Marsi, For us to discuss other French books, I think we should do it by e-mail. My address is if you would like to continue our conversation.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of Diane Johnson's books and as far as I'm concerned ("Le Mariage" and "Le Divorce")-- qualifying of course by saying I certainly don't know many of the books that have been written on our favorite subject --Sarah Turnball's "Almost French" got everything just right. She is a delightful writer and I remember going through some of the things she did and nodding my head in agreement.

Perhaps we'll delve more deeply. . .

Marsi said...

Would love to chat about books. I will email you this week, Tish. Exhausted from a fairly harrowing past five days and need to decompress before I can even put my thoughts together.

I have read all three books that you mentioned in your comment, and loved them as well. Another Diane Johnson book that is fabulous is "Into a Paris Quartier," which is all about her research into her little corner of St-Germain. Truly fascinating, and you feel like you are RIGHT there. (Though in your case, Tish, you are!) But that book is a bit of a digression from the French women theme ....

CailinMarie said...

in my next life I am going to channel you... fascinating

tishjett said...

OK, Marsi, you're on. We've got all the time in the world to have our conversation.

I will also get back to the other subjects. Have lots to tell you in your previous comments.

Also, thank you for the sympathy for my pathetic tart.

tishjett said...

Calin Marie,

You are absolutely adorable. Merci.

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