Seemingly every fifth article published on the internet is a vague account of how “easy” it is to live your dream and move abroad. You know: quit your job, cash in your retirement savings, sell all your belongings. Then move abroad to live in varying degrees of comfort depending upon the location and your skill set. But long before these hipsters started blogs to detail their travels abroad, there was Olivia de Havilland. The actress has won two Academy Awards with an impressive five nominations in all. You might remember her as the mild mannered, big-hearted Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind. But in 1962 the actress published a book titled Every Frenchman Has One, detailing all about her adventures of living in Paris, France as an American.
To celebrate de Havilland’s 100th birthday, publishers re-released the book.
It was her marriage to a Frenchman that brought de Havilland to Paris. In the spring of 1955, she married Pierre Galante. She and her son Benjamin, from a previous marriage, made the trans-Atlantic move. But settling into life in Paris wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In Every Frenchman Has One, de Havilland tells twenty anecdotes in twenty chapters. She highlights the differences of life abroad as an American. The stories are all very entertaining and de Havilland is very charming in the way she tells them. The stories range from the difficulties of trying to immerse yourself in a foreign language to the differences in healthcare, fashion and finding appropriate living accommodations.
But some of the cultural differences that de Havilland details betray her glamorous background and the circles she was running in in Paris. In one chapter she recounts her horror at a social faux pas. She fails to recognize and properly address the Comtesse de Paris. De Havilland describes the Comtesse as being a title of respect for the woman who would have been the Queen of France. You know, had the monarchy had survived. In another chapter she outlines the difficult steps involved in getting accepted for an appointment at a chic hair salon. However, other stories — like miscommunication with house painters — are more down to earth.
You don’t have to have ever lived or traveled abroad to understand and appreciate Olivia de Havilland’s stories in Every Frenchman Has One. You will laugh with appreciation and commiseration at some of the all too familiar stories. And those who have lived abroad might laugh a little harder. The book is a quick, easy read that is very inviting. Every Frenchman Has One is just as charming as you might expect.
Every Frenchman Has One – Olivia de Havilland
2016, Crown Archetype, 144 pages
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.