Ooh la la! Every Frenchman has One!

Back in print for the first time in decades—and featuring a new interview every_frenchman_has_onewith the author, in celebration of her centennial birthday—the delectable escapades of Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland, who fell in love with a Frenchman—and then became a Parisian

In 1953, Olivia de Havilland—already an Academy Award-winning actress for her roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress—became the heroine of her own real-life love affair. She married a Frenchman, moved to Paris, and planted her standard on the Left Bank of the River Seine. It has been fluttering on both Left and Right Banks with considerable joy and gaiety from that moment on.

Still, her transition from Hollywood celebrity to parisienne was anything but easy. And in Every Frenchman Has One, her skirmishes with French customs, French maids, French salesladies, French holidays, French law, French doctors, and above all, the French language, are here set forth in a delightful and amusing memoir of her early years in the “City of Light.”

Paraphrasing Caesar, Ms. de Havilland says, “I came. I saw. I was conquered.”

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letzter-star-aus-vom-winde-verweht-olivia-de-havilland-wird-100-41-65081832
Olivia as Melanie Wilkes in ‘Gone With The Wind’ in 1939. Olivia at 100! ❤ 

I’m pretty certain that everyone knows, Gone With The Wind, is my favorite movie of all tumblr_mc1ie8exue1r11s4xo1_r1_500time. (It’s tied with Beauty and the Beast!). I’ve always had an affinity towards Scarlett O’Hara, which is a nickname for me given that since childhood (and before I ever saw the movie or read the book), I always say ‘After all, tomorrow is another day!’ To which my parents reply, “Okay, Scarlett.”  Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t love anyone else but Scarlett/Vivien Leigh. I absolutely loved all the main characters and Olivia de Havilland’s portrayal of Melanie Wilkes touched my heart. As with all of my interests (which become obsessions for awhile there), I researched about the four leads. I found Olivia’s story so very fascinating and I was rather awestruck when I saw she had written a book.

Enter ‘Every Frenchman Has One’! Written by Ms. de Havilland in 1962, it was rereleased last year in honour of her 100th birthday. There must be something about France because she has never looked back since moving there.  There isn’t a structure followed, there isn’t a plot, it is just Ms. de Havilland writing her own thoughts and experiences, some of which will have you cracking up. Her candor is something to experience. It’s a quick read and the book is small too, 144 pages and this edition has a small interview with her to celebrate her centennial birthday, which was on the 1st of July.

Reading this book made me feel like I was talking to an old friend; that she was regaling me with tales about her life, which is precisely what the goal was, I think. Moving from the USA to France was an experience; she had to relearn how to go from Fahrenheit to Celsius, the very chic and stylish salons and such, language barrier, falling in love, tending to her son and countless other gems that make you think she should have optioned this book to be a comedy film. It’s such a gem of a book, one you’ll enjoy if you’re ever curious about how it is when you move across the proverbial pond and how to adjust and find your way.

Oh, and the title? What does every Frenchman have? A liver. Ms. de Havilland writes, “the most significant of all human organs as the French constitution is concerned.”

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About the Author

melaniewilkesOlivia de Havilland began her film career at the age of eighteen playing Hermia in Max Reinhardt’s motion picture presentation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her films have included The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gone with the Wind, The Snake Pit, and Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte. Over the course of her esteemed career, she has won two Academy Awards (for her leading roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress), as well as two New York Critics Awards, two Golden Globes, and a National Board of Review Award. In 2008 she received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2010, the French Legion of Honour. She lives in Paris.

 

Review: The Moon In The Palace

25577005When it comes to history, I feel there’s always something to learn. I confess I tend to stay within British, American and French history, but I was drawn to The Moon In the Palace by two things. Firstly, I had friends raving about it and secondly, the cover. I love a beautiful cover; it calls to me and invites me in. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Well, reader, I judged. And it was a wise choice on my part because this was a beautiful read.

The descriptions of the locales and even of everyday attire was stunning and I could see it perfectly in my mind’s eye. The author has a gift for inviting a reader in and it has carried over into the second book in the series too–a review will follow once I finish. The themes seem to be honor, duty, filial loyalty and strength. Heaven knows one needed it to survive the intrigues! Mei–the future Empress Wu–is thirteen when she is selected to become one of the concubines of the Emperor and along with fourteen other young women, she has to make herself noticeable. When it is his birthday, whilst the other women of court aim to spoil the Emperor with things that he already has, Mei writes a riddle, setting herself apart. It is something she continues to do for all of her life; she is not one to remain in the shadows.

The development of the characters is like a lotus; slow to start and then it’s opened beautifully. It’s truly a beautifully spun tale–much like the silkworms that are mentioned in the book. Mei is a child when we begin and through this novel, we see her grow into a beautiful woman, who is learning her place in the world and how to navigate it. It’s a complicated world, to be certain, but you finish feeling that the best is yet to come for Mei. Not without trouble, of course, because court intrigues are as frequent as say a bird flying overhead.

The history is absolutely fascinating and as I didn’t know much of anything about seventh century China, I am most certainly intrigued and would like to learn more. Beyond Mei, I find Pheasant, the Noble Lady and others to be fascinating characters. Some you can tell that they may have ulterior motives but others? Well, I think you ought to read the book!

All in all, I highly recommend this book and I look forward to whatever else Weina writes. She has truly grabbed my attention and introduced to me a brand new world where I was, stupidly, oblivious to. Admittedly, the only woman in Chinese history that I was familiar with was Hua Mulan and that was from Disney. I know that’s rather pathetic, but we all start somewhere when something has our interests. For me?

This is that book.