What French Women Know

About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind

By Debra Ollivier
(Putnam Adult, Hardcover, 9780399155628, 256pp.)

Publication Date: September 3, 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Paperback

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A primer on the ineffable, je ne sais quoi appeal of the French woman.

I t?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 us.

Ollivier goes beyond familiar ooh-la-la stereotypes about French women, challenging cherished notions about sex, love, dating, marriage, motherhood, raising children, body politics, seduction, and flirtation. Less a how-to and more a how-not-to, What French Women Know offers a refreshing counterpoint to the stale love dogma of our times. Peppered with anecdotes from its Franco-American author and filled with provocative ideas from French sexperts, mistresses and maidens alike, it debunks longstanding myths, presenting savvy new thinking from an old sexy culture and more realistic, life-affirming alternatives from the land that knows how to love.

Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com


  1. In France, French girls do not pick flowers and ponder love with “He loves me, he loves me not;” rather they say “He loves me a little. A lot. Passionately. Madly. Not at all.” Ollivier uses this as a metaphor throughout the book to illustrate how French women are groomed to think not in terms of absolute love or total rejection, but in nuances, degrees of passion, possibili­ties, and shades of gray. How has our tendency to be binary about love (He loves me, he loves me not) influenced our rela­tionships? How might this mindset conspire against freedom and the ability to enjoy men, with or without closure? How would you be different if you grew up looking at love not in black-and-white, but in shades of gray?

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