|Book review: Every Frenchman Has One, by Olivia deHavilland (Amazon / Book Depository)
A quick, fun and light collection of anecdotes with lots of vintage charm by the actress I knew best as Melanie from Gone with the Wind, but of course she’s legendary for way more than that. I had no idea she was a Parisian expat, was almost 100 years old, and had written a memoir. So basically I don’t know much besides that I’ve always loved her for being in GWTW and that’s why I was so excited to read it. I couldn’t help but picture her as Melanie at the beginning, but her much saucier personality changed that pretty quickly.
She tells stories in a conversational tone with a retro sense of humor (my grandmother uses many of the same expressions and kinds of jokes that she does, and I mean that in a good way!) and paints herself as a naive foreigner moving to France for her French husband. But her intelligence shows through despite the somewhat fluffy subject matter. Even writing about more difficult topics she has an upbeat, positive tone that makes everything seem lighter and happier.
My criticism was that some of the topics were dealt with a little flippantly, and in a seemingly unaware of her privilege and rich Hollywood movie star status kind of way. Not all of us deal with the problem of our French maid not wanting to correctly wear the uniforms we buy her and conform to a movie stereotype of what a French maid should be. A few things like that.
The light, observational topics work better for her; I loved her take on the difference between how American and French women think they should wear a dress, and if American women don’t have sufficient bust it’s implied they should buy it. She’s frank and hilarious on topics like that. And bonus: a brief, special guest appearance by her little sister Joan Fontaine!
This was originally written a few short years after her move to Paris. I wish she would’ve written more about her experiences after living there for 50+ more years!
Every Frenchman Has One
I received a copy of the new edition courtesy of the publisher for unbiased review.