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Joie de Vivre Hardcover – 13 Nov 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (13 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 125000456X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250004567
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.9 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 728,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A classic!--Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce, on French Toast

About the Author

HARRIET WELTY ROCHEFORT grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa and studied at the University of Michigan and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She traveled to France after her studies - and never left. As a freelance journalist in Paris, Harriet has contributed articles on French business and lifestyle to major newspapers and magazines including Time, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and specialized publications on France. She has also taught in the international journalism program at the prestigious Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po). She regularly speaks on Franco-American cultural differences to various university study programs and other groups. Harriet lives with her French husband, Philippe, in Paris.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FrenchVillageDiaries on 21 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover
In this book (with a beautiful cover) Harriet Welty Rochefort uses her in depth knowledge of the French, she has been married to a Frenchman and living in France for over 40 years, to explain their `ways' to the rest of us.

She tries to unravel and explain a lot of French paradox, they seem to eat more, yet mostly remain on their target weight, their lunch hours and holidays are important, strikes happen and are supported, yet they remain very productive and for a nation with a reputation for being sullen they have the most `joie de vivre'.

I was either nodding in agreement or having a bolt of understanding as I read this book. So many things seemed to make sense and it was nice to identify some typically French things I had been following for a lot of my time here without really realising it. I definitely learnt something - that the most important thing is confidence, from what you wear (like La Parisienne) to how you manage your food. Talking about food, we all know it is big in France and therefore no surprise, a big topic in this book too, where we often join her and her extended French family at the table.

More than anything it made me yearn for Paris, especially as she describes her walk to the local market, the wine shop where she gets advice and good wine and my favourite, her cheese man with his seasonal stock of over 200 real cheeses. She also seems to spend a lot of her time in cafés, talking to friends, interviewing or just people watching, but I can't blame her, I would be doing the same if I were there too.

If you are looking to create a new life in France it would be a great idea to read this book first, especially if finding a French husband is on your `to do' list.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 31 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Unbalanced view on both sides 25 April 2013
By Tessa's Mom - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While this book started out fun it got extremely repetitive as I continued on. Obviously I expected the author to exhalt the sense of joie de vivre the French have, but it did get a little tiresome as it turned into an "us against them", us being the French and them being the rest of the world-especially American's. I am also half French via Quebec, Canada and have sat through many of those wonderful, loud family dinners with everyone gesticulating and passionately engaged. I think there is much we can learn from the French when it comes to taking the time to smell the roses and I certainly envy them their health care and those vacation days. However, the author seems to see the French through rose colored glasses to the point of it becoming ad nauseum. Even the rude service people, ridiculous rules of verbal etiquette, and snotty Parisian women are absolutely wonderful. There is nothing that is not perfect in France. There are also some hypocritical parts in the book. In one case, the author thinks it's perfectly wonderful that if the French invite you to dinner and say "Around 8" they certainly don't want you to be early and they don't even want you to be there at 8:00. However, she takes exception to American's telling their guests to "Come early" if they want, because she feels it means they want their guests to leave earlier. What's the difference? The French don't want you early, the American's don't want you late. A simple cultural difference. But why is it wonderful for one and wrong for the other? I also didn't like the stereotyping of the French or the American's and other European's ie. all French women are sexy and no American woman, no matter how attractive, could ever be sexy. I have read many books about France that are far more honest, exhalting both the good and the bad, and therefore more real. Yes, there are wonderful things about France, and amazingly enough there are some not so wonderful things about France, just as there are wonderful and not so wonderful things about America and American's. I am of an open mind when it comes to seeing that there are good things about many other countries/cultures but I'm also aware that no one is perfect. I can honestly say that, unlike the author,one of the last things on earth I would ever want to be is one of those stuck up Parisian women obsessed with looking perfect, dumping her kid in daycare as soon as it's born so it doesn't have to cramp her style, putting people down, and being as catty and rude as possible to other women. I much prefer to be a friendly woman who smiles at people. However, I would like that 35 hour work week, the vacation time, and the free health care. I think all American's could learn from the French the art of taking the time to smell the roses and to enjoy the time we have here on earth with our families and friends rather than being stuck at work. I think most American's feel that way. I certainly don't know anyone who wants to work MORE. Now if we can only convince our bosses we might have a chance!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
From Eau de Toilette to Heady Parfum 25 Oct. 2012
By Nana - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a longtime Francophile, I've read many books about France, ranging from Henry James's « A Little Tour in France » to the tomes celebrating picturesque Provence and the French Eating experience. It's rare to have an in-depth look at the French and life in France from an American long-term resident who married into a French family and has honed her power of observations so adroitly. I read Ms Rochefort's first book French Toast about 15 years ago. It was very funny and as light as a delicious soufflé. Ms Rochefort's new book, Joie de Vivre, features many of the same characters, now grown up, and the tale she tells is definitely more meaty. And like the ripening of a fine wine, it brings out the essence of why the French are at once so maddening and so utterly appealing and charming. That dichotomy makes perfect sense under the pen of Ms Rochefort. She does a fine job in explaining the French and clues you into the hows and whys of those specifically French ways of acting, doing and being. And little by little, her love for the country of adoption and her pleasure hits you strongly. This is a must read for all you Francophiles and their children who just might buy a one-way ticket to Paris after reading Joie de Vivre.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Larousse of French Culture 24 Oct. 2012
By Jenny C. Drews - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading this book I ordered 3 extra copies to give to friends. For anyone interested in anything having to do with France, you MUST READ THIS BOOK! It is the culmination of 40 years of a personal journey - keen observation, analysis, and attempts to assimilate into a French family by a young American woman who goes to France after college and marries a Parisian. While her first book, French Toast, is a more light hearted description of her adaptation process, this latest book, Joie de Vivre, completes a trilogy of her experiences with EVERYTHING French - politics, opinions and how the French express them, food, fashion, education, medicine, social life, family life - you name it. It's a veritable Larousse on anything any curious person would ever want to know (and more) on the French. As I neared the end of the book I started thinking that it is really a love story, as the author's admiration and appreciation of her husband and his country jumps out at you on nearly every page. Her ease and sincerity in relating personal experiences and observations make easy to read short chapters on every imaginable topic that will give the reader a better understanting not only of the French, but of Americans as well. A delightful book!
28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
cute idea, myopic views 19 Nov. 2012
By Alison W. Blackman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Americans are fascinated by the French. Love them or loathe them, French people exude a certain mystery for us, from their style, to how they dine, think, and live. Harriet Welty Rochefort is an American who married a Frenchmen and by default, thinks she has figured out what makes the French tick (from an American point of view). I didn't read her first book, French Toast, but I just finished Joie de Vivre, Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012). The idea is a cute one and the author is an adept writer, but I couldn't stop thinking that Ms. Welty expresses her French experience through very myopic eyes. She is, after all, not just an American, but one who lived in Iowa as a young woman, and who traveled to France right out of school and never returned to America. Instead of growing up and getting "polished" in an urban center of the United States, where she would really see how life is in the "big cities," she married and stayed in France. When the author observes the things that make French people so unique and full of "Joie de Vivre" she seems to forget that sophisticated Americans do many of the same things as the French she is so enchanted with. I just kept thinking (as I read her book) that Welty doesn't have a comparison to adult life in the USA, since she didn't live here as an working adult woman with a family to attend to. Perhaps, that is why she opines that Americans are unhappy, boorish oafs who eat junk food and have no class, have no fun, can't take a joke, and never stop in a cafe for coffee (let alone take time to include little "niceties" in their lives). It seems seems, for lack of a better word, a bit unfair. While Welty has some interesting observations of "us vs them" I am also fairly certain from my own observations in Paris, that not every French man, woman or child really lives, thinks and loves the way she enthusiastically and glowingly, depicts. Large urban centers, including Paris, have plenty of harried, anxiety prone people who balance too many things, don't take enough time for themselves, and hardly ever prepare multi-course feasts for their families and for dinner parties. Some certainly may do so, but saying that makes the French full of "Joie de Vivre" is as silly as saying all New York Women wear stilettos even when they have to run for a cab.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Joie de Vivre Exudes Joie de Vivre! 23 Nov. 2012
By Bronte22 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"I love their talent for finding joy in the moment without wondering what's next." So Harriet Welty Rochfort describes her adopted compatriots and the man with whom she has shared a 40+ years marriage. Another Amazon reviewer has said that this book is one-sided because its author went to Paris as a very young woman from rural Iowa and found such a stark contrast with her own prior life experience that she tips the scales in this book heavily in favor of the cosmopolitan French. The reviewer contends that if Harriet had lived in the larger American cities, she would find that urban Americans are very much like the French she describes. I beg to differ. Having lived my entire life in Chicago, spent times in NYC, Boston, and Washington D.C., there are some subtle and not so subtle differences between ourselves and the French -- differences we could learn from that would make our lives far more pleasurable and joyful. For me, one of the most striking ones is this: Few Americans I know are as comfortable living in the moment as the French. Lunch in the US is rarely savored, lingered over. When we do take time for our meals, it's often the exception to the rule and sometimes even done with more than a little guilt and one eye on the clock. Unlike the French, we eat at our desks all the time and pat ourselves on the back for our strong work ethic. And despite all that rush and worry, the French, who routinely take two hour lunches and month long vacations, are more productive than we are. Could it be that they are renewed by taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: good food, stimulating conversation, the beauty of other people passing in the street? Rochfort's book goes a long way toward educating nonFrench people about the ways our lives could be richer, fuller, happier, and simpler by following the French example.

Something she says in the chapter "Hanging Out Without Feeling Guilty," reminded me of a conversation I had with a French friend several years ago. I was talking about not having had a vacation in some time and about all the work I had to do on my job ... just not being able to get away. He said, "I love my job, but I don't live for my job. Life is not for that. You should be more French." I've spent the years since trying to do exactly that. And Harriet's book provides a wonderful way to explore what that looks like in lived experience as well as in all of the health and other benefits that come from living French. (Incidentally, Harriet provides "Some Hanging out Homework" that I can hardly wait to do!)

Joie de Vivre has a particular relevance at this point in US history. Social programs are under attack and companies are increasingly disinclined to care for the well-being of their employees ... citing cost and wanting to get as much work out of workers as they possibly can. Having a successful alternative model might give us the necessary inspiration to think differently about both our work and our personal lives. Rochfort recounts the difference having a virtually free college education can make in the life prospects of young people. She talks about the mandated vacations and the resulting health benefits and improved productivity. The success of French companies. The national health care system. And she echoes my French friend, "the French like their jobs and they like money as much as the next guy. In their minds though, the job and the money are linked indissolubly to what really counts: family life and personal happiness." French culture reflects these values. The care of children, the benefits to families, the care for the elderly ... this is a country that does more than just talk about how much families are valued.

There really is a more user friendly way of living one's life. And the French have found it. To share it with her readers, Rochfort interweaves her own life experience with research in both contemporary and historical works and interviews of Parisians and Parisiennes. I'll end by citing one of her sources, the journalist François Hauter, writing in Le Figaro: "France is savored slowly, like a glass of very good wine ... She whispers to you: don't hope for the impossible, the only thing that counts is joie de vivre." Bien sûr!
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