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La Seduction
Elaine Sciolino
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La Seduction

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  517 ratings  ·  104 reviews
How the French seduce through playing the game of life.
Published 2011
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In France children play a board game, Loto des Odeurs, to help them develop and refine their sense of smell. The French believe in the right to pleasure so they are highly tolerant of other people’s private lives and do not enjoy ugly revelations. Investigative style journalism is rare. The concept of sexual sin and Bible toting politicians don’t exist. French workers hoping to get a job in the public sector, a low-level ticket agent for example, are expected to answer literary questions about t ...more
This book is incredible. As a bi-cultural person with deep roots in France and America, I have spent years unsuccessfully trying to identify, explain, and describe that certain "French thing" that makes French thinking different from American thinking and my French life so much richer and more interesting than my American life. (Don't get me wrong, I certainly enjoy being an American and appreciate many elements you can't find anywhere else, but when it comes to quality of life, no one beats the ...more
Sep 12, 2011 Julie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: New York Times
"Le is something so much more definite and more evocative than what we mean when we speak of pleasure...To the French it is part of the general fearless and joyful contact with life. --Edith Wharton

I adore France. Adore it with complete abandonment. It's a love affair that began in September 1990 when I boarded an Air France flight in Chicago as a 21-year old college student, embarking upon a year abroad. Each time my husband - also a Francophile who spent a year with Cognac-produci
Being French I was curious too see what an American has to say on the topic, I had never really thought about it before. I enjoyed her experience with politicians or other famous French men, the various stories (the Eiffel Tower, Chantal Thomass etc.). It's a well researched book full of interesting details (at least to me). But overall, I could not really agree with the way she portrays seduction in France through mostly a very upper class point of view. All the people she seems to meet, to int ...more
Lori Crossley
In purchasing this book to read, I was expecting a more light-hearted look at an outsider striking to find a place in everyday Paris life through work, family and socializing. That is not this book. And that became perfectly okay. Sciolino takes an in depth look at the influences and perspectives of the French worldview and how the French see themselves and their place in the world. It was interesting to see how the French play their games in the political sphere- with successes and failures. Th ...more
Interestingly, this book left me feeling as ambiguous about its subject - French culture and society - as I was before I started reading. I've always been drawn to certain things about France: the beauty of its landscape, the richness of its history, its melodic language, and the people's reverence for all things artistic, from literature to painting to architecture. Sciolino's in-depth study of the country and its inhabitants reaffirmed all that, which was satisfying, but it also confirmed my o ...more
Ooh-la-la! I took notes! Very informative and well researched, this book reveals both the subtle and not so subtle ways of being in the world that is French. Covering a wide range of topics from simple things such as smiling to world politics, Sciolino writes mostly with fondness about her discovery of the cultural differences that come with living and working in country that is not one's own. Timely for me on a personal level and ironic given the Strauss-Kahn affair all over the press these day ...more
Sciolino is the Paris correspondent of the New York Times and a former political correspondent covering French and Franco-American politics. In this book, she is most factually perceptive and persuasive when she discusses how "seduction" has influenced French politics and Franco-American political dynamics.

The other chapters (which cover life, love, cooking and other avenues in which the French practice "seduction") traffics in cliches that have not been re-thought or re-visited since WWII. Sci
Elizabeth Theiss
I read this book during a vacation in France. It seemed perfect to read about the French on site--a bit of cultural exploration to enrich the journey. Elaine Sciolino knows her subject well as she served as Paris bureau chief for the New York Times for many years.

Her major motif is the idea that the French as a people are sensuous and engage openly in seduction in their relationships, their cuisine, their art and every other part of their lives. Alas, generalizations are seldom useful for deepl
A disappointment, quite frankly. I thought the author started out well, explaining how the French interact with each other in the first few chapters. But she tends to meander and the middle really isn't all that interesting. Quite frankly, the best parts for me concerned the political aspects (Sarkozy, Chirac, Mitterand, Strauss-Kahn, Royal, etc) on the domestic and international stage, but that might be because of my personal interests.

Overall I felt the book was a mess and I was never really
I really enjoyed this well-written and well-researched book. Granted that it is more about Paris than about the rest of France and that it is more about the upper classes than about the ordinary French people, it still seems an accurate assessment of an important aspect of French culture as seen by an outsider (or as interpreted by the French for an outsider). The anecdotes usually are interesting and fun, and the points made seem truthful. The author has thoughtfully provided a useful bibliogra ...more
Thomas Mcmillen
This book is not about "seduction" in the way we assume when we say "seduction", (well yes it is...), but also about all relationships in our lives from our partners and families, to lovers and desired, to friends and business contacts. What I really took away from the book is that one should strive to treat every relationship with importance and meaning and using the alternative definition of "seduce", "bring one closer to oneself". We all want to feel as if our moments in life matter. Practici ...more
This book introduced me to terms such as le regard, second degré and les fesses. It talked about the usage of tu versus vous, the importance of conversations, and why things like food, perfume and lingerie are significant to the French. The book also contains juicy bits about Carla Bruni and a few other contemporary figures. However, the book only focuses on a selected segment of the demographic, namely, the upper class white urban professionals aged 45 and above. Regardless of this shortcoming, ...more


A real American abroad is Elaine Sciolino, who was The New York Times’s bureau chief in Paris. She has written La Seduction, a nonfiction account of how important the idea of seduction is to all aspects of French life. She begins by describing what went through her head the first time a president of France kissed her hand. She also writes about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose behavior prompted one French comic to suggest that women better wear burqas in his
On Ne Sait Jamais. And that is why you never run to the store in your sweatpants and sneakers or take out the trash in your fuzzy pink bathrobe. One never knows...
Giscard said, "I have never met an American , never, who has really understood what drives the French society." And the French like it that way.

Elaine Sciolino carefully uncovers the French milieu. Seduction is key. And seduction is war. Its three weapons are: "le regarde" (the look), "the word," (marivaudage) and "the kiss"(bise). It
An uneven but interesting book. I enjoyed the chapters on diplomacy and politics best, but - as shown in the other comments - some people preferred a different emphasis. I'm a little puzzled why we are currently so interested in psyching out the French. Having lived there recently and also 40 years ago, my own observation is that they have joined the modern world. And I do have trouble with assigning broad traits to a whole country. Lots of Americans, lots of French, lots of different peoples.
Bonnie Samuel
This is a really charming book. Some reviewers have complained that it isn't a serious look at the socio-political aspects of how traditional French culture impacts immigrant populations or France's ability to modernize by neglecting to adapt principles of speed and efficiency, but I have to wonder what made them think this book did or should focus on these things. This isn't an academic, historical, or serious social analysis piece. It's the perspective of one American woman who set out to disc ...more
I loved this. I havent finished many non-fiction books to be honest but this was so engaging I read every word. Not only did this make me want to run away to Paris but it also made me want to put a bit more effort and forethought into how I live my life. I loved how this was not a dreamy eyed travellogue. It refrained from the normal steryotypes about French people and didnt give into gushing about them either. This felt balanced which was nice. Being neither French or American I wouldn't presum ...more
I was happy to have been attracted by the cover to read the synopsis of the book and later, to find it sitting on my nightstand. A wonderfully written monograph on the French approach to life, by an author who has a background in journalism. This makes for a seamless and entertaining read. The opinions in the book are interesting enough to warrant thinking about, though the reader may not always agree with them.

I would heartily recommend this to anyone who has an interest in France, the French
This collection of essays on the French mindset is invaluable for all of us Francophile Americans who wish to spend more time in France and to make as few Americanesque cultural faux pas as possible. Elaine Sciolino, an American journalist based in Paris, begins with a discussion with the lingering (though waning) French tradition of men kissing ladies’ hands, and how we Americans just don’t know quite how to react to it. She even includes a picture of former First Lady Laura Bush looking giddy ...more
Victoria Nunez
I have to admit that I loved reading this book. This confession, however, does not ultimately mean that the book is good. I do not know a lot about French culture so I picked up this book in order to gain better insight of it and its growing pains. What I discovered was that Sciolino is in love with Paris- its food, intellectuals, over-arch customs, and the "art of living." She's completely enamored by all of it and she utterly seduced me (a reader who was willing and wanting to be seduced) with ...more
I think maybe if a French person had written this book it would have been what I wanted to read – because shouldn’t a book about seduction seduce the reader? I found the premise that the French are an opaque, mysterious people who use seduction in every facet of life irresistible. It shows a culture that is involved and interested in living life instead of simply getting through it. I was keen to be inspired by this book – to have a guided look under all the rocks I may not have been aware of in ...more
Linda LaRoche
We've all heard it before; the differences between the Americans vs. the French. Even back in the day when writer Edith Wharton asserted that the French woman was unique in nearly all respects, as different as possible from the average American woman, she didn't stop there—the French dress better, flirt better, cook better, etc., but those simple aspects of French life didn't adequately describe why and how the French got to be that way.

Paris Correspondent, Elaine Sciolino’s La Seduction: How t
The author developed an interesting thesis about the French and seduction. Unfortunately, she chose to focus nearly exclusively on a small parisian upper class (in the "west" of Paris). It is as representative of France as it would be to choose the Upper East Side in Manhattan to study typical Americans. Her depiction of French women is particularly inaccurate and only describes a tiny number of individuals out of touch with the rest of society.

I know how much the upper class can be manipulative
Katie Dreps
Entertaining looking at la vie francaise. I enjoyed the little theories and ideas in the book, though while I was reading I had a hard time actually applying these generalizations to French men and women that I have known. This book is more about how Parisians live than anything else. As if a book about New Yorkers, or Manhattanites, describes all Americans.
When Marie Antoinette came to France from Austria, one of the things that the people disliked about her was that she flouted their etiquette. She found it confusing, so she chose to disregard it.

Sciolino's book draws back the curtain on French manners and mores, explaining "la seduction" (better defined as "charm" than any kind of sexual pejorative) and how it relates to politics, fashion and even a highly ritualistic dinner party.

Sciolino interviews journalists, fashion mavens, politicos and mo
I bought this book when my husband bought our tickets to Paris, and it's sat on my shelf for four months. With the flight less than two weeks away, I figured I should get the book down and read it. I'm glad I did. While the author does rely on some American stereotypes of the French to explain how the French work, play, and live, for the most part, it was an insightful book into what makes France so unique and intriguing. And it wasn't just a book for Francophiles, as the author does delve into ...more
Simply intriguing for those interested in understanding the French. Having lived in France for 7 years and being married to a French man, I was impressed with the accuracy of the book and the breadth of topics covered. One of my favorite reads yet
This book was a gift from one of the heads of the American School of Paris (a friend of a dear friend) who associates with the author. Perhaps this isn't a book I would have normally picked out for myself, but I found that it was right up my alley.

At times the message was jarring, but I found all explanations and anecdotes accentuated the author's message and allowed greater comprehension to the French consciousness. This book has enlightened my understanding to so many other works of French lit
This book made France seem fascinating and intimidating all at once. I enjoyed reading about seduction and it's importance in French culture, but the political section of the book made me glaze over. La Seduction was a bit repatative in some areas. But it's worth a read if you have an interest in French culture and society. I would borrow this book from the library rather than purchase it.
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Elaine Sciolino is a Paris correspondent and former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times, writing from France since 2002. She writes the Lumière column for The New York Times’ T Magazine.

In 2010, she was decorated a chevalier of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor of the French state, for her “special contribution” to the friendship between France and the United States.

Her new book, La Sed
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