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What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  791 ratings  ·  126 reviews
The Los Angeles Times bestseller! "A Gallic prescription for living a life that is richer, more sensual, messier, and a lot more fun" (Boston Globe)

It's not the shoes, the scarves, or the lipstick that gives French women their allure. It's this: French women don't give a damn. They don't expect men to understand them. They don't care about being liked or being like eve
Paperback, 262 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Berkley (first published January 1st 1960)
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As I am French, I was at first surprised and then deeply intrigued when I first saw this book. Of course, I know that French and American are extremely different but I didn’t know that books have been written about it. When I open it, it wasn’t without misgiving as such a book must surely contain a lot of generalisations and clichés and as anyone who read this book must know by now, French people don’t fit in moulds. In fact, we even deeply resent such an assumption. However, as I was quite curi ...more
If American author, Debra Olliver, sat down at my kitchen table and mentioned that she had lived in France for ten years with her French husband, and I in my exuberance asked her to tell me all about French women over coffee, What French Women Know would be a transcript of the resulting conversation. In a lengthy conversational essay, Olliver expounds on every personal anecdote, pop culture reference, and quote she can muster relating to the French woman—a woman who boasts an internationally acc ...more
I am always wary when an author presents a “typical” person of any kind. In this case, it’s the “typical” French woman, and as we all know, this person probably doesn’t exist outside of popular opinion. At the same time, there is nearly always a grain of truth in a stereotype, and in this case the generalizations have more to do with cultural conditioning than any solid, definable “type” of person. Also, this being a self help book for all intents and purposes, the generalizations are necessary ...more
I found myself in the "sex" isle while at the library a week or two ago. There was lots of giggling and then I proceeded to walk out with a dozen books. Very mature.

I read reviews for a lot of the books and I remember reading a lot of negative ones about this book. Women were UP IN ARMS about the (not so favourable) comparisons between American's and the French. I can see what they were getting at now. It's the TONE in which Debra Ollivier explains the different outlooks between residence of th
Stella Vance
Paris-obsessed middle-aged American women will find much to reassure them of the rightness of their Francophilia in "What French Women Know..." A more critical reader interested in a serious cultural compare and contrast will see past the *très* gag-worthy "merci beaucoup"s and obnoxiously frequent "excusez moi"s and know the book for what it is - a masturbatory fantasy for people who love and glorify the idea of France and of being French because some unnameable sophistication must be imbued up ...more
Earlier this week, as I headed to my job, a man in my building asked me out after a few minutes of conversation. I thought this rather abrupt, as in this short conversation, it was clearly established that we had absolutely nothing in common, especially when his main point of conversation was saying in multiple ways, "You're one of those artsy chicks, right?" and also made sure to mention how much his car cost (that he had just wrecked the week before). Regrettably, I gave him my number, because ...more
Aug 02, 2009 Sharon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in French culture
I read Debra Ollivier's previous book, "Entre Nous," and enjoyed it thoroughly. I jumped at the opportunity to review "What French Women Know," as I was certain that the well-known expatriate columniste for "Le Monde" would share more of her interesting insights to French culture.

Ollivier did not disappoint. She writes about friendships, dating (a concept the French do not really have), cooking and shopping -- and how French women look at all of these things differently from American women.

There are many explanations of what French women know.

But I adore their fundamental attitude: they love Men a lot a lot. And not surprisingly, the compliment is repaid by French men: they love Women a lot a lot. So the foundation is always there to build upon.

French women know men need a lot of tolerance and looking after. This view offers a certain relief in the "battle of the sexes" as it is played out in the States.

This book gets to the core of the famous French diet and way of eating, and h
I really adored Ollivier's previous book about French women, "Entre Nous," but I had trouble finishing "What French Women Know." Ollivier makes sweeping generalizations about both French and American women. For example:

"I was recently at a cocktail party in the States when the hostess asked all of us guests to get in a circle with our margaritas and tell the group about the most meaningful and powerful experience we'd ever had. One woman with a head full of meaningful and powerful red hair shot
One and a half stars -- one for the subject matter; half for the text. "What French Women Know" struck me as purporting to be a bit more intellectual than the author's previous book, "Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl," in assessing the products of America's feel-good culture and a society in which people are taught to embrace their imperfections, themselves and their opinions. Ollivier tries to have fun discussing why French society fosters independent, stylish spirit ...more
It's not the shoes, the scarves, or the lipstick that gives French women their allure. It's this: French women don't give a damn. They don't expect men to understand them. They don't care about being liked or being like everyone else. They generally reject notions of packaged beauty. They accept the passage of time, celebrate the immediacy of pleasure, like to break rules, embrace ambiguity and imperfection, and prefer having a life to making a living. They are, in other words, completely unlike ...more
"What French Women Know..." can be summed up with the most oft repeated phrase in the book, which is that French women are aware of "the brevity of life and the immediacy of pleasure." The author is an American who moved to France and married a French man and became a Francofile. She wrote this book exploring the differences between French and American women, focusing on love, sex, and food. All these three areas of life have an element of hunger to them. I would say after reading this book Amer ...more
Jane Dugger
I really enjoyed this book. I'd rather give it a 3.5 stars since I preferred the author/narrator when she spoke in the French accent. She seemed to rush the English portions a bit. I think she was nervous.

There is a lot of food for thought in this tiny tome. I felt like I was getting an opportunity to look into a Frenchman's mind which is very insightful since I live with one. It explains a lot: the nonchalance, the aloofness, the unfriendliness ... I could go on but then you'll wonder why I lo
Robyn Blaber
I was a little disappointed when I started reading this when I discovered that it was just another view by an American embedded in Paris. My disappointment faded, however as the author turned against the social mores of American life with a persistent ferocity. She does not go so far as to say that the French way of life is perfect, or even 'near' perfect, but she does say that many aspects of French life are superior to the American Way.

I found myself agreeing with every frankly laid out point.
So what do we learn from the great country that gave us libertine passion; Marquis de Sade, and philosophical giant; Voltaire?

Apparently a lot! Especially on how its culture cultivated their women. I found this a great read especially because I am a non Aglo-Saxon, so it's basically learning both cultures for me.

I would love to inbreed some of this free-spirited values for myself, and can finally understand some of the things I don't understand when watching French movies!

I found this an entert
The book is exactly what it claims to be: a quick, fun examination of cultural differences in Lady Stuff (romance, bodies, relationships, diet) between French and American women. Besides her own experiences, the author includes quips from friends, popular culture, and philosophers to highlight the attitudes and stereotypes surrounding women in the two cultures. She keeps it light, highlighting that examining others allows us to see our own quirks, while lambasting The Rules mentality that Americ ...more
Elisa Winter
You know, it's just so strange to casually pick up what you think is going to be a quick light read that won't make any dents in your head, and find that some author just nails you when you least expected it. This woman explained some important things about living the good life, that has nothing to do with how we're taught to live the good life as AMERICANS. Really nothing. French women, it seems, are brought up in an adult culture, a confident culture, a culture that applauds the breaking of ru ...more
It's always good to see how much greener(or not)it is on the other side or ANY side to be honest.As an American girl,I've always kind of looked to the French in admiration or my bogus second-hand emulation.I think it's a book that a lot of American females should read.It goes into detail about and gives you the background on all the lovely French stereotypes.After reading this book,I became even more of Francophile than I already was:)This book is for people who are interested in being a bit mor ...more
I'm not going to get embroiled in all the hoo~ha about this book. What I am going to do is quote an excerpt from an interview with Vanessa Paradis aka 'Mrs' Johnny Depp, who, when asked the question "'You've been with Johnny for more than a decade. What are the secrets of a long~lasting relationship"? replied "Love, respect...and patience" which in a nut shell corroborates one of the messages contained in this book, your husband is your best friend? really? this is not the way french women work. ...more
I loved this book. I think of the phrase, "you're too close to it to really see" when I read this and think about how I live my live. All the anxieties about love and relationships, the body and self confidence that we have as American women, (generally speaking) and then there are are women who live else where with out it? This is possible??? Who knew! lol. This painted an entirely different perspective for me and I couldn't stop reading. (Well, listening, it was a book on tape lol! I'm a cheat ...more
interesting to note that in America there is only one beauty the blond bimbo whereas in France beauty can take many different sides and intelligence is valued for a woman. The author points out that in America it is all about youth and fitting that narrow ideal whereas in France it is about adulthood and women regardless of age are/ feel sexy. They don't obsess about being the perfect woman and go to extremes about obsessing about their husband and children, being the perfect wife and mother and ...more
Now I have specific examples of why many American women have a love/hate relationship with the French. Debra Ollivier has lived in France for 10 years, married a French man, and is raising two children there. The conversation feels easy and personal yet she does a good job giving literary and historical examples that support her assertions. However, the scientist in me often wanted her to give data or at least survey information on the outcome of the French philosophy. For example, French women ...more
Gregg Sapp
I am the kind of person who cannot walk by a shelf of books for sale, whether it is in a large book store, a department store, or a dollar store. It was in the latter that I happened upon this title. Being married to an often mysterious French woman for -- lo, thirty years now, I figured that the subject might be of some interest and perhaps even insight to me. It had to be worth a buck, anyway.

Yes, it was worth a buck. Still, despite the popularity of such narrowly conceived books as "French Wo

The thought of being French women itself liberating. And this book perfectly justifies it.

Having a thick American background and now lives as a French, the author put biculture collision she experienced herself into a good use. Indeed. This book falls far from being mere dictionary of anecdotes found in daily encounters—non. The anecdotes are decorum to greater anthropological feature of both culture: American and French. Or, more likely, Anglo-Saxon and French.

Since the discussion of women
Not what I was expecting. The author throws around heady literary and cultural references as though trying to impress at an academic conference (see, see, look I've done my research and I won't summarize an entire history of academic thought on gender issues or feminism or the history of France, I'll just pepper the page with oblique references to other major works so that those in the know will know that I'm in the know) that comes across as obnoxious. So busy trying not to generalize and bandy ...more
Polly Vous Francais
This may be a good book but the author and publisher quoted a full page from my blog without attributing it. Lame at best, unethical at worst. Read about it here.
I liked the bits where actual French people were quoted or gave insight into their experiences. I rate those bits 3 stars. I could have done without her fluffy writing, her moralizing, and her constant inaccuracies when it comes to feminism. The book is also poorly organized, goes on for far too long, and she and I draw different conclusions based on the same material. For someone who lived in France, she is more stuck on "American morality" than I am. I think she does her audience a disservice ...more
Rachael Quinn
The full title of this book is What French Women Know About Love, Sex and Other Matter of the Heart and Mind. I ordered this book so long ago that I can't really remember why. It must have been around the time that I started looking to 1960's French pop on Pandora. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing that I would get too caught up in. But I did.

Ollivier lived in France with her French husband for a number of years and her observations about the difference in cultures are, well, observations.
In What French Women Know, Debra Ollivier proves that the best way to understand your own culture is to leave it behind for another. Suddenly, every feature of our familiar landscape, everything we take for granted and possibly even cherish, becomes part of a cultural minefield.

The portrait she paints of Americans is rather unflattering (which probably accounts for why the book has been controversial here in the US)but not unkind. By contrast to the French, for whom sex is natural and normal and
So, let me preface this by saying that I do not find all Americans irritating. I honestly don’t, I have friends who are American and I find them warm, charming and intelligent. However, I have found this book and its author vastly irritating. The main thing that really got up my nose was Ollivier’s tendency to refer to English and Commonwealth (her term, not mine) readers as “Anglo”, as in Anglo-Saxon. She just lumps us all in together as one, which I found really crass. She’s basically making t ...more
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Good book, but.... 3 40 Mar 08, 2013 06:14PM  
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Ollivier lived in France for over ten years, had her two children there, and became a dual citizen. She currently divides her time between Paris and Los Angeles, where she lives with her family, and is at work on a historical novel.
More about Debra Ollivier...
Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide To Finding Her Inner French Girl

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“For one of the first pressures that bear down on American girls is the pressure not only to be liked but to be like everyone else. This initial feat of self-transformation often involves loosening one's grip on that quiet sense of inner self and hitching one's wagon to a single standard of beauty. The stress of leaping through that hoop insinuates itself into the young heart and soul with a vengeance, and insecurities go from being hard little buds of confusion to overripe, snarled and tyrannical fruits that hang on the vine as we age.” 10 likes
“Men may be the head of the house, but the women are the neck, and they can turn the head any way they want.” 0 likes
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