Book Review: Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille Guiliano

The latest from bestselling author of French Women Don't Get Fat (which I've never read, but sure did sell a lot of back in my bookstore days), Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire offers advice for women in the workplace. Aptly subtitled "Business Sense and Sensibility," author Mireille Guiliano provides just that: sense, and sensibility, for the woman in the workplace.

Beginning the book with a lamentation regarding the number of mentors available to women in the workplace, it almost feels as though Guiliano is reaching through the book to provide this much needed mentorship to her readers in lieu. Although her advice can seem a tad obvious at times (make eye contact and remember to smile, e.g.), it is enlightening to have such a gentle reminder of the more obvious things and fresh look at the less obvious (how to entertain your boss at a dinner table, for example).

My only true grievance with the text (besides the fact that I finished it without ever being told what "savoir faire" actually means) is the gender bias confronted in each chapter. This happens in two ways: first, although the front flap copy and first chapter suggest that a few men may enjoy the book as well, I found this not to be true. As a woman in a workplace environment, I gleaned many useful lessons, but the majority of these were particularly geared toward women, and only women. No man is going to be told to store a classic, A-line black dress in his business wardrobe, after all.

But slightly more irritating than this are the sweeping stereotypes made of both male and female workers: men are loud, and interrupt more often, and need to feel powerful, whereas women are more emotional, more likely to let others speak over them, etc. Luckily, Guiliano keeps the text from becoming too stereotypical by presenting these stereotypes with a form of apology (although this is something she cautions women never to do; apologizing too much and pointing out mistakes is apparently in our nature).

Perhaps the highlight of the book is Guiliano's mentor-like tendency to remind her readers to consider themselves, to weigh their options, to determine what success means to them, etc. Although we hear this frequently, it is both reassuring and helpful to be reminded of what is good for us from time to time. And, like urging smaller portion sizes, Guiliano is correct in reminding us in the importance of balance. I suppose this is why she feels so much like an author-mentor, and in the end, that is the charm of the book.

Bottom line: Guilano's text is engaging (especially given the potentially dry subject matter) and entertaining, and, as she had hoped, her stories and anecdotes give new meaning to each of her workplace lessons. Well-written (especially as English, we learn, is not her native language), informative, and at times thought-provoking, Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire is an easy read for any woman in the workplace, and would make a valuable gift for any young woman starting her career (or more experienced woman needing a bit of subtle guidance). Gentlemen, though, should probably take a pass (the title pretty much guarantees this though, no?)

Added points to the design team on this one for the mono-color images at the heading of each chapter and the overall paper and feel of the book: it is classy, sophisticated, and perfectly matches both the author and the tone of the book.


Thank you to Atria Books, part of Simon & Schuster, for the review copy of this title, via Goodreads.

No comments

Thanks for stopping by!