Another book review going up a bit late, but better late than never! Today I’ll be reviewing the first book in the Madame Chic series by Jennifer L. Scott, Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris.
Jennifer L. Scott is a blogger and YouTuber based in Southern California. As a university student, she had the opportunity to live with an aristocratic family in Paris for six months while she studied art, history, and the French language. She took those experiences to heart and began blogging and making videos about the lessons she learned from her time there and has now published several books on the topics of lifestyle and fashion.
When I came across her YouTube channel, The Daily Connoisseur, I was intrigued by her concept of the “10-item wardrobe” and her general views on living well and cultivating one’s self. I don’t always agree with everything she has to say, but I do generally enjoy her advice about topics related to homemaking, time management, cultivating the mind, and enjoying the little moments in everyday life, so I was very interested to read her book.
“When Jennifer Scott arrived at the doorstep of a grand Sixteenth Arrondissement apartment in Paris as a foreign exchange student, she was greeted by the woman who would become her mentor and the inspiration for the way she lived long after her time abroad was over. Madame Chic took the casual California teenager under her wing, revealing the secrets of how the French elevate the little things in life to the art of living.
Each chapter of Lessons from Madame Chic reveals a valuable secret Jennifer learned while under Madame Chic’s tutelage: tips you can incorporate into your own life, no matter where you live or the size of your budget. Embracing the classically French aesthetic of quality over quantity, aspiring Parisiennes will learn to master the art of eating (deprive yourself not), dressing (the ten-item wardrobe), grooming (le no-makeup look), and living à la française. From entertaining with easy flair and formality to cultivating allure while living an active, modern life, Lessons from Madame Chic is the essential handbook for anyone wanting to incorporate that Parisian je ne sais quoi into her daily life.”
Quoted from Goodreads
This book was a fun and light read which covered a very wide range of topics. From fashion, makeup, and skincare, to entertaining guests, appreciating art, and enjoying the mundane tasks of daily life, Jennifer L. Scott gives lots of great advice on all these and more.
I found her writing style to be quite charming and easy to digest. I also loved getting glimpses into her European adventures, as she shared many details of her daily life in Paris and a lot of fun anecdotes to illustrate her points.
What I Liked
I really enjoyed the overall structure of the book. It was divided into three sections and then further into chapters, all with clear topics arranged in a logical manner. At the end of each chapter, she summarizes her best advice into bullet points, which makes it very easy to reference. Since I read the book on Kindle, I was able to highlight all of the bullet points and compile them into a single Google Doc for easy reading.
I also, of course, enjoyed much of her advice. Overall, she encourages her readers to strive for quality over quantity, be it with food, clothing, or experiences, which is something that I happen to agree with. I found her chapter about entertaining guests to be very interesting. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we’re all stuck inside due to Covid-19, but the thought of throwing a great dinner party was extremely exciting to me. I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to do that any time soon, but I loved her ideas and recommendations pertaining to food, drink, and creating atmosphere. I was also most inspired by her chapter about finding the simple pleasures in life. As someone who spends a lot of time at home, it’s easy for me to feel a bit bored when doing daily tasks like cooking and cleaning, or to feel bored by my surroundings. But she encourages people to slow down, employ their senses, and find joy in small pleasures like observing nature or savoring a cup of tea.
Lastly, I really enjoyed her anecdotes about her time in France, as I mentioned above. Her descriptions of food, furniture, people, and atmospheres were very clear and easy to imagine. Each little vignette and story that she incorporated into each chapter infused life into the book, which made it a very pleasant read. An advice book has the potential to be very dry, but her storytelling elevated the reading experience.
What I Didn’t
There were a few points throughout the book that I felt the author was being unnecessarily judgemental toward what she deemed to be “low brow” culture and manners. Throughout the book, she complains about the vapidity of modern pop culture, the frivolity of watching television, and how modern society has become too casual. Meanwhile, she romanticizes the aristocracy and Old Hollywood, both of which have their own many faults.
I also disliked how judgemental she sometimes sounded toward other women. For example, in a chapter about the art of femininity, she casts aspersions on fake nails, plastic surgery, hair extensions, showing cleavage and the like, even saying that she doesn’t take seriously the authority of newscasters who aren’t dressed to her standards of modesty. I really don’t like the idea of judging other women’s capabilities or worth based on how she is dressed or chooses to adorn herself. Surely there is a better way to advise people interested in French fashion on how to achieve a Parisian look without denigrating the looks and style choices of others.
There are a few more instances throughout the book that give me pause, but I’ll stop here because I don’t want to rant on. Just know that while much of her advice is interesting and sound, some of her opinions are not and maybe would have been best kept to herself.
My Star Rating
There was a lot to enjoy about this book: the quality advice, the lovely writing style, and the Parisian flair. I can certainly see myself rereading portions of it in the future and referencing the bullet points again and again. For those reasons, I think it is worthy of four stars. But I couldn’t bring myself to give it a full five stars because of those judgemental portions that left a bad taste in my mouth. I recommend everyone to read her work with a critical lens and take only what you need.
Despite my misgivings, I’m still planning on reading Jennifer L. Scott’s other books. Next on my reading list is At Home With Madame Chic, which I plan to read and review this coming Friday!
You can find Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris here.
Thanks for reading!
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[…] Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, which you can read here. It was certainly an enjoyable read, but not without its flaws. The first book cast a wide net and […]