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C'est la vie : an American woman begins a…
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C'est la vie : an American woman begins a new life in Paris and-- voila!--… (2004)

by Suzy Gershman

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This is one of the books I found through PaperBack Swap recommendations after reading Entre Nous and giddily requested it hoping for a similarly pleasant experience. It was tough going at first. By page 70 I was thoroughly annoyed with Ms. Gershman because at that point the book read more like a shopping instruction manual with endless mentions of Born to Shop and incessant dropping of names of famous people and brands that began bordering in pretentious. "Is this really who you are, Suzy?" I kept thinking. I get it, this is her life and her social circle, but had it not been for brief glimmers of hope in the form of short entries that actually talked about Paris and the French lifestyle and people unrelated to luxury merchandise and who's who of the Parisian "it" list I would have given up and moved on. I did stick with it though and was rewarded with longer chapters that gave me what I came to Ms. Gershman for - a glimpse of her experience living the French life.
As the book progressed and the chapters got longer and less healfhearted Ms. Gershman's personality began to come through and I began to see something in her that was more than a woman spending away her husband's life insurance money. I could see a practical woman having a hard time but determined to not fall apart, a woman rediscovering and reinventing herself, following her dream and doing it in a foreign country and in a foreign language at that. I liked her spunk and that she had standards and an unfailing sense of humor. I enjoyed her stories about holidays, cooking French deserts for the first time, making new friends and dealing with the internal conflict of nurturing herself and worrying about her son's reaction to her choices. These were real stories and I preferred them to the tales about buying overpriced designer sheets.
This isn't your typical book about starting over in France with the author struggling to make connections outside of the expatriate community or being unreservedly enamored with the French. Ms. Gershman arrived in Paris with a well-established network already in place, she had money, and her lack of fascination with Parisian style is obvious and refreshing. She is unabashedly American and is not trying to blend in. She speaks frankly and in detail about the charm of having an affair and her disenchantment with it, as well as medical issues and the difficulties of navigating the French bureaucratic systems. There is not a gossipy feel like in All You Need to be Impossibly French or the reserved distance like in Entre Nous. It is actually more like Almost French in that the authors see the good and the bad clearly and appreciate France for what it is. I wonder whether these two ladies know each other - they are both freelance journalists and they arrived in Paris at the same time (imagine my surprise when I realized this).
This is a fun book and had the first half been more like the second I would have enjoyed it much more. As it is I would recommend it to those who is moving to Paris or is entertaining the notion, those enjoy shopping, or those who want to see what it's like to live in France. I'm with the last group and some day soon will continue the vicarious adventure. ( )
1 vote bolgai | Oct 28, 2012 |
A wonderfully informative and candid account about a woman beginning a new life in Paris.
I wanted to love it and I would have, if not for the author getting over the death of her husband so horribly fast, practically forgetting she had left a grieving son back in the States, and embarking in an absolutely RIDICULOUS affair with some married count with weird fantasies. That is not "C'est la Vie"--that is sheer stupidity. ( )
  FutureMrsJoshGroban | Apr 2, 2012 |
Pretty good memoir about a middle aged American woman whose husband dies unexpectedly, and so she is spurred to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Paris. Eventually she purchases a residence there - it'd be a pretty good place to grow old, she feels. It's fun reading along with her as she struggles to get used to her new life and furnish her new place, and since she is a very social person, also meeting (on paper) the new people she befriends including a new elderly romantic interest nicknamed "the Count". She's an author of a "Born to Shop" series of guide books on shopping in other countries, and her shopping perspective is both interesting (because she's descriptive and has adventures seeking things) and annoying (since I am not very interested in these apparently famous brands she describes). ( )
  amanderson | Jun 13, 2011 |
Read this on the recommendation of my mother, and it was fun to share an interest in the author's story across our generations. When the author is focused on describing specific scenes or experiences, she does a great job. (Her tales of furnishing her apartment -- and getting the furniture to fit -- were some of my favorites.) It was inspiring to see a woman somewhat ahead of me in years reaching for new dreams and possibilities. Too often, however, Ms. Gershman spends time name-dropping and waiting for the silent applause of her imagined reader/fan. ( )
  mojumi | Aug 18, 2008 |
Informative but not much fun. ( )
  picardyrose | Jan 19, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143035509, Paperback)

Bestselling writer Suzy Gershman (dubbed “Super Shopper Suzy” by Oprah) is our answer to Peter Mayle in this heartfelt, breezy, and funny story of starting over in Paris. Suzy had always fantasized about moving to Paris with her husband, but when he dies unexpectedly, she decides to fulfill their dream alone. Here she gives a deliciously conversational chronicle of her first year in Paris and of the dizzying delights and maddening frustrations of learning to be a Parisian. Filled with Gershman’s insider’s tips on everything from cooking the perfect clafoutis to—naturally—shopping, C’est la Vie is delightfully entertaining and captures the exhilarating experience of beginning a new adventure. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:34 -0400)

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