Daily Archives: November 9, 2011

All You Need to be Impossibly French (Helena Frith Powell) – Review

All you need to be impossibly French : a witty investigation into the lives, lusts, and little secrets of French womenAll You Need to be Impossibly French by Helena Frith Powell
Age: Adult
Genre: Non-fiction / Memoir
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
ISBN: 0452287782
222 pages

Find this book at your local library 

I’ll give you 1 guess as to why I picked up and read this book. One guess. Take your best shot. =)

The title is pretty self-explanatory. The book is broken down into 12 chapters. Each chapter covers a different factor of what makes up a typical French woman. The chapters cover topics from style, exercise, beauty secrets, parenting, love and love affairs.

There were many things I liked about this book, and those factors separate this book from all the other How to be French books I’ve read this past year. For one, this book focuses almost solely on French women without comparing them to women of other countries. If there were any comparisons, they were to the author’s homeland of England. It was refreshing to read a book like this that did not beat up on the American way of life (it can be taxing on the American self-esteem).

The other element I liked is that this book did not glamorize the French way of life. In fact, this book was pretty bare bones about how frivolous and superficial French women can be in regards to appearance. Told as a memoir of her years living in French, we see Helena go to a number of shops and speak with beauty and fashion experts to find out just what gives French women that je ne sais quoi. Matching underwear is a pretty key element, as is having a heavily regimented beauty routine.

The third element of the book that I liked what that Powell touched upon the differences between a Parisian woman and a French woman. I think most people like me would think they are one in the same. But that’s like comparing a New Yorker to the rest of the United States. Apples to oranges. Parisians are bred to be more fashionable and more strict in their lives than other areas of France. I noticed traces of this in France during my honeymoon. That’s why I loved the Provence region so much more than Paris. Life and style were more relaxed and easy-going. Even in Paris though, the main fashion hot-spots were by the Champs-elysees.

Reading this book somewhat dampened my desire to want to live in France. I don’t think I’d be able to keep up with the lifestyle there, not that the French make it very easy for any outsiders to live and become citizens in the country. There is lots of jumping through hoops, hoops lit on fire at that.

This book also touched upon the more taboo elements of French society, that of the expected infidelity between men and women. Most other books I’d read tended to neglect this element, focusing solely on how ardently the French love and live with passion.

Powell’s writing was endearing and funny. There were moments when I felt she was a sap for falling for the marketing ploys of “buy this and you’ll be French” in regards to the lingerie and beauty supplies. But who am I to judge? I spent far more money on beauty products than I’m proud of to look stunning for my wedding. What I liked about this book, is that Powell honestly reflects on the changes she’s made to herself to be more French, but with still keeping her British roots alive. She’s inquisitive and adventurous, but knows when to draw the line. I’d love to read other works penned by the author and she has written a plenty.

– Ciao Bella: In Search of my French Father
– More More France Please
– More France Please, We’re British: 15 Lessons on life in France
– No French Please, We’re British: 20 Lessons in Living in France
– To Hell in High Heels
– Two Lipsticks & a Lover