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La Seduction
Elaine Sciolino
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La Seduction

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  685 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
How the French seduce through playing the game of life.
Published 2011
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Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lori Crossley
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.

Sciolino says that the French love order, seduction, and the art of life. She uses this to rationalize why the French tolerate and even take pride in everything from long lines, bad service,
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help, french
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
Victoria Nunez
Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
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
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
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-read
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
Bonnie Samuel
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay
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
Thomas Mcmillen
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, ngl, 2013


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
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
Excellent. Well written, interesting cultural study of France through the prism of seduction, which seems to be a national pastime, at least among the better off classes and the intellectuals. Made me realize that I would never fit in if I moved to France. I'm just too blunt and don't have the gift of a good conversationalist. Plus I will never again wear high heels. But I have at least returned to wearing perfume. My Chanel #5 is no longer tucked away waiting for a special occasion. As Sciolino ...more
Very interesting, though I got really bored with all the profiles of ancient French politicians. Was happy it ended with a dinner party though - skip the politicians and jump right to the last chapter if you think you might feel the same.
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very enjoyable read for the serious francophile. Yes, the criticisms of other readers are valid, for instance: Too much emphasis on Paris, Parisian life and let's call it the elite. It must be borne in mind, that these are the circles the author moved in, apart from the parents of the football playing girls.

The references throughout the book, had me intrigued and I watched online clips, read encyclopaedic references, searched for images and I enjoyed this multi-sensory experience
Linda LaRoche
Oct 20, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
La Seduction was not the book I thought it would be. I expected--was afraid--it would be all about sex, playing up the sexual, or sexy, aspects of French culture for a cheap thrill. This was not the case. In fact, Sciolino's entire premise is that seduction, in France, does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. As an American, this is a puzzling concept, and as an American, Sciolino sets out to unravel the mystery.

The first part of the book focuses on the concept of seduction and how it
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
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Catherine Gauthier
This is a must read if you wish to understand France or your French friends better. Ms. Sciolino's book is chock full of well-researched, compelling anecdotes which richly demonstrate her point: French life revolves around seduction, be it at home or at work. Dozens of conversations with politicians, thinkers, businessmen/women and people from more modest walks of life all illustrate how much seduction of the senses is the bedrock of life of France. As a French woman living in the US, I thorough ...more
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Melissa Arnold
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable, thought provoking and still easy to read

I liked the variety of people she interviewed and her writing style as well. I really enjoyed reading it even though this is not the type of book I normally read. I don't usually finish nonfiction books- I usually read a few chapters until it feels repetitive and then stop- but I kept reading this one because in a way, she seduced me!

I would suggest this to anyone that has been to Paris and fallen in love, marveled at the beauty of the Eiffel
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
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Elaine Sciolino is a writer and former Paris Bureau Chief for The New York Times, based in France since 2002. She contributes to The New York Times' Food, Culture, Styles and Sunday Review sections. In 2015 she served as the expert lecturer on the first New York Times-led tour to Iran, and will have led six Times Journeys to Iran by the end of 2016.

Her new non-fiction book, The Only Street in Par
More about Elaine Sciolino...

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