In July of 2016, the British-American actress Olivia de Havilland, known by younger audiences for her iconic role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind, turned 100 years old. 2016 also marks the rerelease of her book, Every Frenchman Has One, which was originally published in 1962.
The book chronicles Havilland’s first several years as an English-speaking American living in France, as Havilland adjusted to French culture and learned how to thrive in her new country. In one anecdote, while still new to France, Havilland talks about how her son had a fever of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit, but her French doctor did not understand what this meant in Celsius. The episode ended with Havilland buying a French centigrade thermometer – and figuring out her own conversion method from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
Because it was written over fifty years ago, the book has a vintage feel to it; Havilland’s word choice and writing cadence are indicative of an earlier era. Havilland’s writing has a sense of refinement to it – a feeling of properness and formality – but she simultaneously comes across as down-to-earth. The book is a relatively quick read, and the atmosphere is light and fun. And in 2016, Havilland’s witty memoir as a foreigner in a new land is still relatable.
You can find Every Frenchman Has One here.