Book review: learning to live like a local in ‘My Paris Dream’

MyFrenchLife™ - My Paris Dream - book coverIf you are a writer, a fashionista, or simply a Francophile, then Kate Betts’ ‘My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine’ is a must-read for you.

Full of French slang and Parisian culture, it is an account of Kate’s journey from Princeton graduate to editor at Vogue.

From modest beginnings…

Reluctant to spend the next few years of her life striving to live up to the expectations of her family, and desperate to do something new, Kate graduates from Princeton and spontaneously moves to Paris to pursue her dream career in journalism.

She starts out small, living with a French family and babysitting their unruly kids. She describes all the hilarious and relatable incidents she experiences while re-inventing herself far from home, learning French and sussing out Paris’ diverse residents. Even though Kate was only scraping pennies together, I wanted her life.

Adjusting to the French lifestyle: a black miniskirt to two Azzedine Alaia suits

We follow Kate through the years as she adjusts to the French lifestyle and climbs the career ladder in fashion journalism. In between a string of French boyfriends, trying her hand at boar hunting and wandering Provence, Kate’s assignments begin leading her all over the world, slowly taking over her life.

MyFrenchLife™ - My Paris Dream - Paris

She refers to Paris almost as a living thing, describing how it changes her at different stages of her life, which always seems effortlessly chic. I particularly enjoyed her references to fashion, which reflects who she becomes every time Paris has an effect on her life, from “a black miniskirt at a discount store in Les Halles” and “a midnight blue shearling coat” to “two Azzedine Alaia suits”.

Getting a Paris education: the grit and the glamour

‘My Paris Dream’ is a stunning memoir about getting a ‘Paris education’, the story of Kate’s search to find where she belongs, and learning to live like a local in la Ville Lumière. While striving to join the elite ranks of fashion, the young protagonist discovers her voice as a writer and comes to understand who she is through mistakes, heartbreaks and hard decisions.

I had an electric bill, a telephone number and a boulangerie. At last I was a Parisian.

Through Kate’s experiences, we too experience the real Paris – both the glamour and the gritty reality of living in one of the most loved capitals of the world. Written with witty humour and touching reflections, it captures the difficulty of integrating into a new culture and Kate’s experience in becoming ‘French’. If you’ve even been far from home, it’s impossible not to relate to this book.

Have you ever lived as an expat in Paris? When did you realise you’d become ‘Parisian’? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Image credits:
1. ‘My Paris Dream’ book cover, via the Penguin Random House website.
2. Paris, by Juanedc, via Flickr.

About the Contributor

Stephanie Williamson

As a student of French, Italian & European Studies at the University of Bath, UK and former Editorial Intern at I have a strong attachment to & interest in the French way of life and culture. A literature lover, feminist, writer, self-directed learner and blogger at Typewritered and TwitterInstagram & Google+.

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