perspective. Of course there is the typical and expected good advice to maintain daily good grooming habits, that daily attention is MUCH better than a major overhaul as well as incorporating movement into daily life rather than scheduling "exercise" as a separate part of life. What was most interesting was the tremendous social/cultural differences highlighted between British/American and French women. Rather than endless praise for their enviable chic, the author notes it comes at a high price of constant competiveness with all other women over every tiny part of life, never trusting in the faithfulness of a partner and never really relaxing and enjoying the company of a female friend. Also the quotes that start each chapter are perfect little "bon bons" or "bon mots". An excellent read to learn more about modern European life-- to keep you intellectually fascinating as well as making yourself more
on October 15, 2008
I am French. Moved in the US 4 years ago.
I do wear sneakers, practically live in them.
Healthy eating in France?? I am just roaring with laughter at that one. It usually takes me 2 weeks to recover from all the heavy eating when I come back from visiting my family.
And last but not least, your husbands are perfectly safe with me. I have been married for over 20 years, and I love my husband so much I cannot think of life without him.
So, please drop the stereotype! French women are not a different species. They come in all size and shapes, some are nice, some not so nice.
As for this book, it is just meant to be entertaining, not an actual anthropopology study.
on December 17, 2006
As a fan of the language, I like to read anything about 'la vie française' that I can get my hands on. Especially about the women. I have always heard about how chic, well groomed, witty and incredibly slim they are. In "All You Need To Be Impossibly French", Helena Frith Powell gives insight into the "lives, lusts and little secrets" of french women. As an ex-pat from England, Frith Powell approaches the subject from an outsider's perspective, which I enjoyed. She spills the beans in a delightful way on everything to fashion (french women are never seen in sneakers), to diet (eat less but good quality) to exercise (they don't - they may do yoga or walk but that is about it). It all sounds charming for the most part - but Frith Powell also sheds light on the nastier side of french women - according to her, most french women are "out to sleep with your husband/boyfriend", they are extremely competitive with other women, do not enjoy close female friendships nor do they like to work. I am not sure if I can totally believe this blanket statement, but my sister, who has been living in Montreal for over a decade (I know it is not France, but it is very 'french') claims that Frith Powell is correct in her assessment. So, although I love the whole concept of the chic life of french women, if what the author purports to be true is an actuality, then I would rather have my trustworthy girlfriends, my faithful husband, my work and my extra 10 pounds. That being said, this was a great book and a quick read. I got through it in one day flat.
on June 12, 2007
This reads like a typical article in Cosmo (the Doxy's Digest) puffed up into book length. Frith Powell is witty, and occasionally sharp-eyed. She doesn't mince words about the Frenchwoman's self-absorption, competitiveness, and lack of interest in female friendships; these qualities come across as quite cold. But Frith Powell also blathers on obsessively about the Frenchwoman's thinness, disciplined cultivation of her appearance, "waxed legs," perfect haircuts, and all the other surface adornments whose fault is just that: they're surface. Frith Powell adds that Frenchwomen regard their intellects as further tools of seduction. Frith Powell's own intellect seems all over the place, as she adds a number of dubious (or sometimes just plain false)historical details about long-dead Frenchwomen to prove her theories. The writer Colette, for example, did not "dance drunk on tables" in her sixties. By that time she had severe arthritis and would have had quite a problem clambering up there. Nor did Colette "marry her son-in-law." She had an affair with her stepson, which is bad enough, but not quite the same. Frith Powell makes a number of other careless mistakes. If she was going to bring up these examples, she should have bothered to get them right.
In the wake of the very popular and successful "French Women" books by Mireille Guiliano, author Helena Frith-Powell rides the wave, researching her French counterparts as only a Brit can. Her goal? To discover what constitutes that je-ne-sais-quoi quality that French women possess that allow them to not only tie a great scarf and wear a pencil skirt with aplomb but make them so appealing on such a universal level that women around the world wish to emulate them.
While Guiliano, in her French Women series depicts les francaises (with herself as the quintessential representative) as naturally chic, De Beauvoir philosophical and assuredly commonsensical regarding diet, apparel and romance, Frith-Powell analyzes them from an-across-the-Channel vantage point that sparkles with a playful wit that is part Anglo-Saxon criticism and part out and out green monster envy.
Interestingly enough, I find Frith-Powell's observations about French women indicative of women in any microcosm no matter what their nationality or culture. Sadly, as Frith-Powell comments, the good old boy network that men seem to ease into naturally simply does not exist for women. A control issue of sorts comes into play where the subject woman views herself as the overseer of her domain. Any challenges to her supremacy are looked upon with great suspicion hence the necessity for the superlative attributes Frith-Powell eyeballs with such amusing thoroughness.
A good male friend of mine commented to me recently that as the weaker sex from a biological standpoint, women's sole motivation in life seems to him to be the acquisition of a comfortable nesting place. Along these lines, more accomplished women attract more accomplished men where financial security is definitely a factor and an obvious discrepancy in age (much older men with much younger women) becomes a natural axiom. Frith-Powell's French women play within these simple rules with an apparent sophistication --- they simply know the game and equip themselves with the ability to more than adequately compete. Those of us brought up in an Anglo-Saxon environment, no matter what our ethnicity still maintain the naivety to think perhaps that women can be accepted for who they are rather than what they look like, what their pedigree suggests and what designer outfits they can afford.
Frith-Powell claims that French women just aren't all that much fun to be around and with all that biological savvy and cat-clawing to maintain their supreme positioning, there does not seem to be any wonder why.
Nevertheless, despite the underlying serious of this topic regarding women in general, "All You Need to be Impossibly French" delights in a multitude of ways. By interviewing key French mavens of style and success, Frith-Powell delineates some remarkable differences between them and us. She touches upon all the key womanly fascinations: weight control, fashion, the necessity of silk undies, the miracle of face and body creams, dangerous liaisons, friendships, men and success in a way that only a Brit living in France could. Following her guidelines, anyone can become an honorary French woman---but I beg the question - why would I want to as the fun-factor seems to be devoid?
Bottom line: Helena Frith-Powell's commentary of French women entertains on many levels that are of interest to anyone who is attracted to chic sophistication. On a more serious level, the book suggests that all the powder and paint in the world perhaps creates a paranoid individual who is fearful of losing her domain. Recommended with caution to those who think this is the typical French-girls-have-it-all diatribe.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
on April 3, 2007
The book was a quick read. While I totally agree with the author that French women are more elegant and eat healthier, there are other areas of their life that did not impress me.
I could not excuse the mothers who did not bring their children to the author's child's birthday. It may be a cultural thing, but I don't think it was very nice to stay away and disappoint a child because they did not feel like coming.
Clearly France is a different place. And the women come from a background where certains aspects of life are no match for ours.
My biggest complaint was that the title makes you think that you are going to learn to live like a French women. But you don't. You only learn that French women buy fancy underwear, condone extramarital affairs, do things when they feel like and that the most important thing to them after having a baby is to not look like you had a baby.
I got the impression that French women are intellectual, but also shallow and self indulgent. That truly may not be the case, but it is what the author makes it seem like. The best person in the book, the most real person, was a behind the scenes young woman at a fashion house who was not elegantly dressed, had a soda in her hand and was not pencil thin.
We could use a reality check on how we look and what we eat. That, however, is the only thing I took away with me from this book. It was interesting to learn about life somewhere else. But I am not eager to emmulate French women.
on May 13, 2007
Helena Frith Powell's book is a lighthearted glimpse at how real French women live. It's fairly true to life. Having lived in France for 9 years, I felt like there were passages I had experienced myself first hand. I particularly like the part about getting fitted for fancy lingerie. The section on sex and adultery actually went way beyond what I had imagined it to be. Her vision really is very elite and she interviews some of the power players in French society, fashion and political life. I kept wondering how it might have been different if centered more on 'regular' French women.
on January 20, 2010
The book opens so energetically! The first few pages invite me into a world of self-discovery and fun. However, once things got going, I just felt like I was reading the diary of an insanely insecure woman living in France. Instead of exploring the mystique of French women and the secrets to their confidence and flair, it goes on incessantly about waxing, matching underwear, dieting, and how thin (elite) French women are. I've been to France and I felt that her obsessing over the "perfectness" of French women was over-the-top, and all it left me was feeling like I was reading a Cosmo article or some other trashy women's magazine. If you want to explore France and the spirit of the women there, steer clear of this book. Pick up one by Debra Ollivier or Julia Child's 'My Life in France.'
on June 19, 2008
I really liked the book, I found it to be an easy read, funny, informative and quite inspirational. Actually, I liked the book more and more as I kept reading it (except the chapter on lingeree - the author went on too long about the importance of wearing matching lingeree, etc - I did not think this topick deserved so much attention, but oh well, perhaps it does - afterwards I did go and buy myself a nice lingeree set! And new creams, and make up. ;)). I read this book on the bus on my way to and from work and looked forward to my bus ride every day - not a normal thing for me. I also purchased the other "more famous" book ("French Women Don't Get Fat"), but I thought it was a bit boring (I still finished it and can't say it was bad, just not as consuming). The latter talks mostly about diet while this book is much more entertaining and covers all aspects of French women lives. I am lending the book to everyone I know now, what a gem!
on July 27, 2014
I'm an American woman who lived in France for several years. In fact, I lived in the languedoc region just like the author & was there in 2006 when this book was published. I even met Jeanette from the french-american center in Montepelier , whom the author references several times. All I can say is wow, way to outright lie about french women! Without exception, every french woman I met was kind, generous & welcoming to me. French women don't make friendships with other women? They don't invite other women into their homes for fear we'll sleep with their husbands? They're hostile, superficial & vindictive? Is that why as a single woman, I was invited to LIVE in the home of a married french woman for several weeks while she & 4 of her french female friends helped me find an apartment? Because french women are horrible? Even though I've been back in the US for over 7 years now, my french friends are my best friends & consider me family. Shame on this author.