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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 December 2006, 13:01 GMT
Mastering French manners, the hard way
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC News, Paris

The title, "A history of politeness in France", might strike the uncharitable as being a very short book indeed.

Paris skyline
The famed romance of Paris may need to be tempered with realism

But Frederic Rouvillois' definitive study of manners through the ages in France weighs in at a crushing 550 pages.

It joins Nadine de Rothschild's best-selling bible of politeness in offering advice to those in need of guidance on how to behave in that oxymoron, "polite French society".

For this season of festive meals can be a minefield for those uneducated in French ways.

Oh, if only I had read their advice before venturing out to my first Parisian dinner party.

I had arrived punctually at the chic Parisian flat on the Left