6 Mar 2013

French Reading… The Easy Kind

Lately I have had the urge to do a little more French reading

Not the kind of French reading that makes me break into a panic of conjugation and interpretation…

but the easy kind of French reading.

Stories about Paris, about Provence… easy memoirs… recounts of changed lives… romantic meanderings… that kind of thing…

I thought I would share my latest and best ‘french’ musings… from the blogs to the books.


Have you found Paris in Four Months… Carin’s photographs of Paris are so heavenly… I immediately want to jump on the train and follow in her footsteps.

I have mentioned Mimi’s blog, Manger before… even if you don’t follow and make her recipes… they are a visual treat…

Garance Doré… because I love her take on fashion, her infectious way of talking… her energy.


Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic… any day now this little gem, written and photographed by two French stylistas, will be available… I am always intrigued when it comes to le style francais.


 If you feel like being transported via the Kindle… Thirty Five Minutes from St Tropez by Jane Dunning… or The French House by Nick Alexander.

Mine is loaded up and ready to go… I do enjoy having a smorgasbord (don’t you love that word… ) of light reading for those moments when I am needing an escape or I am travelling and time is fractured.


Have you been ‘French’ reading? What’s your latest?… xv

P.S One to bookmark… I can’t wait for this…  Paris: A Novel by Edward Rutherfurd…  another of his sweeping sagas… (love that word too…)


VA In Your Inbox

subscribe for updates from vickiarcher.com


Suzanne de Cornelia

Am reading Ina Caro’s ‘Paris to the Past’…. “Traveling through French History by Train’. It’s been out a couple of years and enjoying it immensely. Have visited many of the places she ‘discusses’ with a different slant and love her enthusiasm.


She is very cute… and I like her take on fashion… she is very natural… and although she lives in NY.. she is such a French girl… :)

Pamela RG

Hi Vicki, I read Paris in Four Months and Garance too. Have you read Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton? It is a real life memoir of an American in Paris. Thank you for all of the suggestions.

Vintage Finds

Yet again you are in sync with my needs!! I was looking around for some ‘other’ french inspiration than my usual ones and here you are with a suggested reading list! Thank you as ever. Jennifer x


I was pondering if I should write a comment or not, because I don’t know much about French Reading and have thus nothing to tell. But my
latest book which reflected Paris like no other one I guess, was “Paris a feast for life” and what and how Hemingway wrote about this city was more than vivid. But as you recommended that book you know what I want to say.


Love these these suggestions. I just discovered Paris in Four Months, and it is such a visual treat. Garance is a joy to follow, too.

Looking forward to your reading sugestions!


Anita Rivera

Bonjour Vicki!

Oh, I am so behind; I have been TEACHING French all week and we had a huge snow storm yesterday!

WELL NOW…..what you are suggesting here is of utmost interest to me! I can read a French novel, a French linguistics book and even a grammar book and I can get my kicks from that. But what you are showing here is a must for a sunny, sultry day in my garden. Thank you for these suggestions that I must get and visit!

What a glorious photo you share. Is this your home?


Anita Rivera

WOW. I just visited the blogs…they are of another REALM! Thank you Vicki! Anita

david terry

Well, I’ve been unproductively flailing my way (once again and just this morning) through the French-language guide to the Canon EOS 1000D camera. So much for high-literature.

As for Ina Caro’s “Paris to the Past” (not to mention her previous, eye-poppingly silly and disingenuous “the Road to the Past”)? It’s the most fascinatingly awful book I’ve read in years. Of course, her husband is Bob Caro….and I immediately noticed that all the gushy cover-blurbs were written by contemporary and equally celebrated American historians (all of whom are colleagues of Bob’s, and exactly none of whom are in the least regarded as an authority on things-French…or for having ever even visited the country for-all-anyone-knows. Basically, this is, in the business, called payback-time-for-Ina and her vanity-production). It’s rather as though Laura Bush had written a “French” cookbook, and it was showered with ecstatic blurbs from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, and Rupert Murdoch.

I wrote a “bad” review about a year ago and finally just sat on it…particularly after watching a wince-making interview she gave on the Charlie Rose show (her husband’s been a guest many times over the years). Rose finally just gave up, closed the book, and (obviously having decided to play softball) asked “In the end…this is really a LOVE story, isn’t it?”. She grinned wildly and went off a-babbling about “bob” and (once again and as ever)herself. It occurred to me that I could probably just ignore an utterly self-referential, not particularly educated, astoundingly pretentious (A British reviewer waspishly referred to her as “La Reine Americaine”) old woman with transparent pretensions/ambitions.

Should this assessment seem harsh?…..I should emphasize that she’s definitively NOT (as claimed on her backflaps) an “authority on Modern and Medieval French history”. Insofar as anyone can tell (and, trust me, I’ve looked), she’s never published, taught, or written (with the exception of her two vanity-production confections) anything on these topics. Her Master’s thesis in history (she does, indeed, have a masters degree) discussed the Verrazano Bridge project in New York….it’s basically just an expansion of the notes she took for her husband’s book on Robert Moses. I have no idea what that has to do with making one an “authority” on French history of any period.

Nor does she speak or read French with any fluency (nor does she indicate, in either book, any remarkable awareness that she might profit by doing so). Consequently, she seems to spend her time getting lost on trains, missing stops, and having unpleasant encounters with waiters and porters. She also makes (and, worse yet, goes ON about) patently stupid/uninformed mistakes such as claiming that the Place Plumereau in Tours (my in-laws live just up from it) is named after the medieval hatmakers who used to work there (it isn’t….she might note that there’s no “de” in the name, and that it’s not plural…nor, in the first place, is “plumereau” the term for a “hatmaker”. It’s named after a 16th century council-member who certainly didn’t make hats for a living).

All in all….I couldn’t figure out what this woman was doing (or, for that matter, how in the world she got this book published). She comes off as a combination of the irretrievably self-referential Miss Jean Brodie and Auntie Mame with no sense of ironic self-presentation. Suffice it to say, once again, that I found it the most truly-fascinatingly awful (in so, so many ways) book I’ve read in years. I should add that I own both books and wouldn’t part with them for the world….they’re too much fun.

—-david terry


Thank you for these suggestions! I just finished VIntage Caper and Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle that you recommended and LOVED them both! Many thanks for sharing these gems of stories set in the South of France.

david terry

P.S….just for the record?…..here’s an excerpt from Jonathan Yardley’s review in “the Washington Post” (I used to illustrate the book review):

“…Caro’s enthusiasm for France is appealing, but too often the manner in which she expresses it is not: in gabby, gushy prose that is riddled with narcissism. “Paris to the Past” teems with the first-person singular. On a single page “I” appears two dozen times… What purpose is served by the interjection of this bit of utterly irrelevant personal history into the narrative is unclear, but it happens over and over again.
So when Caro dines at a restaurant near Versailles, we are told that “we had a marvelous dinner,” the “only flaw being the restaurant’s air-conditioning, which stopped working during our meal.” A few pages later we get a detailed recitation about her difficulties in hiring a taxi from the train station to the castle at Maintenon, including being ignored by “a rather harried-looking woman at the ticket window, who was busy doing nothing.” A bit later, apparently determined to tell us everything about herself no matter how irrelevant, she announces that “I have always had a lot of trouble staying awake when reading about war and destruction.”
To which the only thing to be said is: Who cares? Yes, the author’s presence is inevitable in travel writing and in the right author’s hand can be invaluable. That is not the case in “Paris to the Past,” which not merely natters and babbles but also sees the French past — all too much of which is violent, bloody and autocratic — through rose-tinted glasses. “

Something tells me that Miss Ina didn’t enjoy THAT very much…..”Natters and babbles”????….”Gabby and gushy”???

Come to think of the matter?…I probably wouldn’t like it, either, if the foremost book-critic for one of the nation’s most prominent publications wrote that about me.

amusedly as ever,

—-david terry

french cravings

I love Paris in Four Months and Manger; together they cover two of my favorite things, Paris and cooking. I also enjoy Little Pieces of Light by Milsters and Travel Postcards by Millie Brown.


Hi Vicki
Thanks for these recommendations, just what I needed for my upcoming holiday! I love the lanterns in the image you used. Any idea who makes them?
xo Max (Still loving my Sperry J-Crews)


They are old Chinese lanterns I picked up in London years ago… I move them around the house all the time and string them up outside in summer… Glad you like your Sperry’s… I just need a bit more snow for mine.. :)

La Contessa

Well, i’m on my third book by LADY FORTESCUE because of your little lists!I love how she loves her garden and how two women went up in the mountains to camp!She was one tough cookie!They have been a fabulous read Vicki thank you!


Le Coeur n’a pas de rides, by Marina Rozenman. It’s nonfiction, the stories of various couples who fell in love late in life. It’s never too late. Written with great sensitivity and dignity, as well as a sense of fun.
Easy to read–I did it in one day, even though I alternated between laughing and crying.


Thank you Vicki for the fabulous new reads. I love them all! I am really looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from Manger, such a lovely site.


It’s not French, but The Bolter by Frances Osborn is very interesting and tragic. Maybe if Idina had had a blog, she might have had an outlet for her feelings.
Vicki, I couldn’t open the “here” link under the potted plant pic.
What was it to?

I’ve tried several recipes from Manger to great acclaim.
Thanks for your efforts!

Garden, Home and Party

The book list is great, and with spring and summer coming I will make time to read. I visited Manger and nearly got lost in her beautiful recipes and her husband’s incredible photography!

thyme (Sarah)

Goodness so much loveliness here. Discovered the blog “Manger”….oh what a dreamy tale she tells through food and beautiful french countryside. thank you.

Cathy Crawley

The last time I was in Paris I read a very interesting book called ‘A beautiful walk’ by another Australian living in Paris. I sometimes stay in St Germain which is featured in the book heavily with stories about the likes of Hemingway. If you are after a bit of history or if you liked Midnight in Paris you might like it :)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

powered by chloédigital