With its spirited prose and witty illustrations, The Art of Being a Woman informs and celebrates the many ways we all can release our insecurities, count our blessings, and experience what the French call “joie de vivre,” a lively tryst between heart and mind.
I picked up The Art of Being a Woman after abandoning a book that proved incapable of holding my interest, and immediately saw that I would enjoy it because Ms. Vienne seemed to approach life with a healthy dose of respect for being both a woman in her own right and a woman who enjoys roles we've come to see as almost archaically traditional. To top it all off she included this quote by Nelson Mandela in the preface: "Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure" adding "Take his word for it, and let your own light shine!".
The authhor was born and raised in France and after reading impressions of the French by an American, an Englishwoman and an Australian it was interesting to see what a Frenchwoman had to say. Her French sensibilities are clearly evident throughout the book and I think that if most, if not all, of her countrywomen are of the same opinions it's no wonder that the French have such poise and that certain something that makes them fascinating. They love all the little things that make them individuals, they don't copy details but strive to learn from them and emulate the concept while remaining true to themselves, they aren't afraid to assert themselves and at the same time they aren't afraid to use their feminine wiles, they value intellect over cookie-cutter beauty and they have no doubt that quality trumps quantity every time.
This isn't a self-help how-to guide but rather a collection of essays on the subjects that matter to us women: ourselves and other women, friendships, men, self-improvement, homemaking, fashion and beauty, shopping, entertaining, love, sex, and family. There aren't steps or bullet-point lists or anything of the sort, just some keen observations that had me nodding my head in agreement, a handful of ideas of the "cleaning the house doesn't have to be a detested chore" variety, and a liberal dose of peptalk thrown in with a sprinkling of reminders to maintain a sense of humour about life and above all oneself.
I'm going to keep this little book for now and will revisit it in the future when I need a nudge to press the Reset button and not hurry so much after "bigger-better-more" and instead slow down to enjoy the simple things and appreciate what I have. If you happen upon a copy in your bookstore wanderings pick it up, it'll make for an enjoyable afternoon or two and maybe will renew your appreciation for the quirks that make you undeniably and distinctively unique.