Book review: True Pleasures: a memoir of women in Paris by Lucinda Holdforth

Ahhhhh. Yes, you can just relax and put your feet up and know that you’re in for a treat. If you’re like me, you consider yourself a Reader. You read books that you’ve read every year since you can remember, books that your friends lend you that collect dust on the floor by your bed, books from the library that hold remnants of other people’s chocolate stained fingers, and books that you occasionally buy in a fit of self-indulgence. I say self-indulgent because if I were to buy every book I wanted, I would have no money for shoes, and I am even sadly restricted in my shoe-buying these days.

True Pleasures: a memoir of women in Paris by Lucinda Holdforth is worth losing out on a new pair of strappy sandals. I have bought it twice actually, so that’s technially sandals and sassy pumps, because someone who I was once good friends with cracked it open long enough to go ‘meh, I don’t like it’ and never returned it. I was so affronted by this complete lack of adherence to Reader Code of Conduct that I had to buy the book again and reconsider a few things. 

I have always had a thing for Paris, but not necessarily in a weepy ‘we’ll always have Paris’ kind of way, nor have I ever danced naked in a fountain in a Parisian square. But I love a city brimming with salacious history and Paris does not disappoint. Perhaps more than anything, I love the character of the city, the myth of Paris, the legends, the je ne sais quois.

Naturellement, I have been to Paris. I was 18, stupide, and ignorant about the wonders of the city. At least I had the good sense to go the Louvre and have coffee in a cafe. I even learned how to deal with a French public toilet which was a hole in the floor at one cafe. I paid homage to the greats at Pere Lachaise and walked for miles around around Versailles, too broke to afford the price of admission. And now, much older and wiser about the delights, nay true pleasures, the world has to offer, I would definitely do Paris again if given the chance. This book is like a second chance to see Paris bug through the eyes of both a woman who loves Paris, and the women who wrote their best work in that city.

Oddly enough, there are many great women writers who wiled away the hours sitting in their drawing rooms at their desks, typing or scrawling out satirical masterpieces in Dior dresses, smoking too many cigarettes and living on whatever the day servant made to eat, nonchalantly accepting dinner party invitations and complaining about how boring cinema has become…

Since reading this book (three times so far) I have taken up with Nancy Mitford who I can not believe I’d never encountered before. I’ve read In Pursuit of Love and can not wait to dive into the others I just procured from the library. 

I must say, I am inspired to write my own biting satire on today’s nonsense in tribute to her.

As for True Pleasures, if you enjoy reading about women who changed the world and the world of books in a fashionable, classy, sometimes bitchy way, you’ll love this book. Also the way Lucinda tells her own story is refreshingly honest. I like to imagine what she’s up to these days, hopefully on her way back to Paris, living off the royalties of her book, taking a lover, and eating too much chocolat.

Get your copy of True Pleasures today at
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.