When I started my French project, I did a search on Amazon to see what books are available which relate to France and the French lifestyle. I bought several stories of English people giving up the rat race and buying a farmhouse in deepest France and I’m finding them very enjoyable. These two books, however, I bought on something of an impulse. They are not my usual preferred reading material: I’ve never been a big follower of fashion and ostentation leaves me cold. I’ve never been impressed with “look at me, look at what I have” stories and the potential for this seemed quite high in this case. However, if they do turn out to be like that, I thought, then I haven’t lost much. I thought it would be worth gambling a few pounds sterling in the interests of research, so I ordered them. After all, I want to know about all of France, and that includes the fashion and finery.
Vicki Archer’s book is the story of an Australian family who falls in love with a derelict farmhouse whilst on holiday in Provence. They move to London in order to oversee renovations and then spend many weekends and most holidays at the property. It is a lovely place, it’s been decorated beautifully and the photographs are stunning. The other book is by Ines de la Fressange who is a model and designer of fashions and perfumes. Her book is written as a series of tips regarding fashion and style for the home and the person. It was first published in French and this is a direct translation into English. After a lifetime in the industry, Ms de la Fressange has plenty to say!
Both books are coffee table types, lightweight and frivolous, but I enjoyed both of them. Reading them is a bit like flicking through Vogue or many of the other glossy, high-end, monthly magazines. They are both filled with many design ideas, for houses and for fashion. When you consider how interested French people are (reported to be) in beauty, aesthetics and good taste, then these books do not seem to be too pompous. In France, making things look beautiful is not considered to be going to too much trouble; it is considered to be completely normal. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by beautiful things, given the option? Neither book is a challenging read, but I spent a pleasant couple of evenings admiring the exquisite photographs and dreaming about living those kinds of life. Pure escapism.