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All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women
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All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  1,103 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
The allure of the Frenchwoman—sexy, sophisticated, flirtatious, and glamorous—is legendary. More than an eye for fashion or a taste for elegance, the French je ne sais quoi embodies the essential ingredients for looking and feeling beautiful.With wit, whimsy, and wonder, British expatriate Helena Frith Powell uncovers the secrets of chic living in All You Need to Be Imposs ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 28th 2006 by Plume (first published 2006)
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Cathy
Apr 14, 2009 Cathy rated it really liked it
Fluffity fluff fluff, but interesting since I've been going through a spate of Francophilia lately. I blame you, Julia Child!

Frith-Powell is a British expat living in France, and the book goes chapter by chapter through such guiltily fascinating topics as French style, French underwear, French skinniness, French bitchiness, and French adultery. I appreciated that it's not just a starry-eyed paean to the all-consuming awesomeness of French women -- Frith-Powell points out that they're tightly wo
...more
lp
Jun 07, 2009 lp rated it it was ok
Sooo... French women never wear sneakers, will always sleep with someone's husband, are thin because they NEVER eat junk food, and oh! there's more! Thanks, Helena!

I picked up this book because I'm going to France and thought it'd be interesting to see what the culture is like, but I have a hard time believing the author's account is accurate. These are some wild things to assume about an entire country full of different people. I'm more inclined to think that French women are pretty much like B
...more
Stephanie
Oct 07, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Super quick read that gives you bit of insight into the "je ne sais quoi" allure of French women. They're sexy, they're skinny, they're unfaithful (as are the men), they spend gobs of euros on cellulite-reducing cremes and matching lingerie, they overly discipline their children, and the list goes on. Having lived in France and knowing several French women, I'd say the generalizations are basically true -- I've never seen so many lingerie shops in my life as I have in France. They are skinny, an ...more
Carrie
Dec 14, 2007 Carrie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: French enthusiasts, Beauty and fashion guru
I wish i had read this book BEFORE Paris!

This book explains why French women are:

1)...so thin (they control portion size and move all of the time, but never workout unless sex is considered an aerobic activity.)

2)...willing to spend a months salary on lingere (sexy first, even under a t-shirt with jeans... that which lies closest to the skin is what makes a woman feminine)

3)...not big on having girlfriends (they inevitably seduce their husbands)

4)...sleep on their backs (side sleeping causes wri
...more
pri
Jan 16, 2009 pri rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
Nothing amazing - but a quick read useful for reminding me that lingerie, creams, and books are essentials. The author is British and lives in Paris - what I found most interesting was her own transformation and her wondering if it was more subconscious or conscious. There were things she just suddenly started doing. Manicures, matching underwear, etc. As she looked more and more into the 'secrets of french women' for her book.

I didn't find the book incredibly witty. In fact, she was at times h
...more
Joey
Mar 03, 2013 Joey rated it really liked it
Easy reading, but just hilarious. Nice book to pass time with.
Helynne
May 15, 2009 Helynne rated it really liked it
I know that a Rocky Mountain "desert rat" like myself is never really going to be "impossibly French," no matter how well I speak the language, how many times I go to France, or how hard I try. Nevertheless, this is a fun book that might help all of us come just a little closer to that indescribable French mystque. Some of my favorite quotes from Frith-Powell:
"French women can make the plainest, simplest outfit look smashing on her while it looks ordinary on anyone else" (6). Powell claims that
...more
Turi
May 09, 2008 Turi rated it liked it
Shelves: france
Someone at the library gave me this book to see if Mich would be interested in it, so I brought it home. It's non-fiction, so of course she didn't want it. For some reason, I picked it up and started reading it yesterday, and found it interesting. It's definitely written for a female audience, but from the perspective of an British woman living in France, trying to figure out how French women are so relentlessly stylish. I liked it for the same reason that i like a lot of ex-pat literature - it' ...more
Susan de la Vergne
Apr 16, 2008 Susan de la Vergne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, not just women
Helena Frith Powell moved from London to the south of France a few years ago and decided to try to understand why French women are the way they are -- chic, slender, flirtatious, cocky, certain (or stubborn), proud. Her discoveries are both insightful and very funny, historically grounded, culturally informed. Interviews galore--including Sophie Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, and people who still work at Chanel (the last bastion of haute couture on the planet). It seems at first like a light read, ...more
Dina F
Oct 10, 2014 Dina F rated it did not like it
The other reviewers here did a good job of critiquing the book so I won't try and re-invent the wheel but simply say that I agree this was a silly, frivolous book. I think it's somewhat irresponsible to make completely unfounded statements about a large group of people, based solely on "interviews" with a handful of the author's acquaintances and some very privileged women at the top of their particular food-chain. And the nonsense about Mr. B, the man with whom the author is considering an affa ...more
Jennifer
Jul 28, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This book was like the cheeky companion book to French Women for All Seasons. You learn all the dirt on the french ladies, but from an outsider's perspective. I am now determined to visit the shop described in Paris that has three floors of bras, panties and lingerie...can you imagine??? I would highly recommend if you are looking a little trip to France.
Emma
Dec 06, 2008 Emma rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
If you want to be paranoid about wrinkles and not owning fancy lingerie this book is for you.
Sarah Clarke-Smith
Oct 13, 2011 Sarah Clarke-Smith rated it really liked it
“All you really need to be a French woman are two lipsticks and a lover; one lipstick for the day and the other for the evening, of course.” (A BOOK REPORT OF SPOILERS BELOW)

1. French Style. Style is life. French women are slim, incredibly pretty, elegant and sophisticated—always perfectly turned out—indefinable and alluringly chic. French women hate to be badly dressed, and by badly dressed they don’t just mean in bad taste but in the wrong outfit for the event. Another key to French style is r
...more
Kat McKay
This is on my "Didn't Finish" shelf w/no stars because I was highly disappointed with the book's content. Don't get me wrong, the author knows how to write, it has good flow, but it was rather shallow and, in my opinion, demeaning to French women. According to this book, they are frivolous w/their money, spending ungodly amounts of it on designer lingerie, face & body creams (sure, I do too, but that's my issue), have tons of lascivious affairs & work as little as humanly possible. I fli ...more
Stephanie
Jan 23, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was ok
While Powell does offer up some interesting tidbits about French women that I've never heard before (they don't have female friends because they're afraid they will sleep with their husbands, for example) overall there wasn't much substance to this book. I especially wanted her to elaborate more on French fashion. Also, the constant putting-down of British and American women in comparison to French women begins to grate on your nerves after a while (although at the end, she does say that at leas ...more
Christine
Aug 02, 2013 Christine rated it liked it
I would have called this by a different main title - maybe something like "How They Do it" or "Why They Are the Way They Are" with the subtitle as shown on the cover. It wouldn't be as eye-catching, and indeed I'm not sure I would have picked it up myself, but it would have been more accurate. This book is a very interesting warts-and-all look at French women and their habits, behavior, culture, motivations, etc. but in no way does it instruct the reader in how to be like a French woman. Obvious ...more
Renee shi yan Liu
Aug 16, 2014 Renee shi yan Liu rated it it was amazing
Caution!! There is certain degree of over generalization in this book, although if a reader is sensual enough, she will not need to aware of this caution. In one word, sensuality is french women's third eye on looking at everything. They are very egoistic women, only because they want to live a life with the maximum quality. They are very responsible for every bit they do to live a full life. In modern days, when every major media is aggrandizing the merit of living full,
what we need is not only
...more
Kathleen
Aug 31, 2007 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
Being French doesn't seem that hard after all. All you need to do is:
-Wear sexy lingerie (make sure your bra and underwear always match).
-Be seductive (this includes seducing your friends' boyfriends and husbands).
-Don't wear sneakers.
-Eat small portions.
-Be intellectual.
-And, in a nutshell, just always look good.

The book was structured with the author, who is British and lives in France, interviewing a number of French women on their style secrets, the author questioning the secrets, then tryin
...more
Kelly
Apr 02, 2013 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: olympia, 2013
A cute and entertaining book written by a British woman living in France. She describes the ways in which French women differ from Brits and Americans, focusing on how they manage to pull off their famous sense of style and elegance. There are some apparent contradictions (earlier in the book she discusses how the structured education system seems to discourage independent thought, entrepreneurial spirit, etc., but then later spends a chapter on the importance of intellectualism), but overall, s ...more
Nicole
Jul 14, 2013 Nicole rated it liked it
I keep reading these over-generalized books about France and French people and they annoy me every time. The goal of the book is to give the reader tips and tricks for how to think and act like a French woman. The author explains that the first rule for being French is that anything and everything you do is based on experiencing the most pleasure possible. Then in the next breath she says that French women basically don't know how to have fun. Well which is it? The author is British, so the book ...more
Olga
Mar 03, 2011 Olga rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I really liked this little volume. It's written by an English lady who moves to France with her husband and children and sets out to find out what makes the French women so chic. She seeks opinions of men and women from both sides of the English Channel on the subjects of style, diet, fitness, lingerie, friends, plastic surgery, children, role models culture and even affairs and relays her finds in an amusing way that left me chuckling on a number of occasions.
This is a good read for those of u
...more
Cameron Toney
Aug 05, 2014 Cameron Toney rated it liked it
Shelves: how-to-be-french
I cannot resist a "how to be French" book. I pick them up in used bookshops and thrift stores, and have a lot of fun reading them.
Like any other sort of book, there can be a difference in quality for these books, from the silly to the almost intellectual. This one falls squarely in the middle.
Its a book that doesn't really come to any conclusions, which is, in fact, refreshing. It points out that French women, like women everywhere, are individuals, and the shared French aura is interpreted dif
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 19, 2013 Elizabeth rated it liked it
This was a fast, easy read. I enjoyed some of the peeks into French culture, and I even picked up a few tips and things I intend to try out. But some parts of the book made me uncomfortable - like the author's brief flirtation with a married man while she's married herself, and the fact that she toyed with the idea of an adulterous relationship. Yes, I realize this is very "French" of her, but it still didn't sit well with my (very Canadian) morals. Aside from that, I found the book pretty fluff ...more
Chelsea
Dec 11, 2008 Chelsea rated it really liked it
Shelves: fashion
Truly funny, very witty, this book was fun to read and,I admit it, I have become even more obsessed with skin care and good shoes after reading this book. A nice, light read about the rigors of being a French female, I am left wondering who cleans their homes and raises their children while they are doing their nails, pedicures, hair removal, diet treatments, and the ever essential shoe and underwear shopping. Child minders were mentioned, but then I wonder at the expense of this way of life. Qu ...more
Ericka
Aug 24, 2012 Ericka rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. Yes, it's a fluff piece but it is interesting to see how the other half lives. I am a woman and I'm not a tom boy, but I just don't have time to do my makeup and hair every day and I'm an at home Mom. I need to be able to run after my to speedy ragamuffin boys to keep them out of trouble because they can think of things faster than Einstein. I find books like these fascinating though. Probably because I'm on the outside looking in. This one is well written and ...more
Michelle
Feb 07, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it
I read almost all the "French ladies do this..." books out there, and this one is better than average. Each chapter discusses a trait commonly associated with the French woman, and has lots of quotes from the elite of French society as well as a bit of history to explain why things are the way they are.

Above all, this book is fair. No, the French lady is not superior to her English-speaking counterpart (HFP is a Brit, but quotes statistics and stories from American and Australian sources as wel
...more
Joanne
Nov 18, 2015 Joanne rated it really liked it
If you want a light read, you will enjoy this book.

From the front cover, “A witty investigation into the lives, lusts and little secrets of French women.”

Written by Helena Frith Powell, an English transplant into France she discussed the style and attitude of a French woman. She examines beauty regimens, clothes, accessories and undergarments, steamy literature, exercise, diet, lovers, prominent and successful French women and friendship with other females. Her tone was entertaining and interest
...more
Gail
Jun 26, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: fashion
An easy fluffy read, but that was just why I chose it. The usual exhortations to eat well, dress nicely, wear makeup and perfume and tend to other aspects of your personal grooming . What made this book a little different from others were the last chapters on marriage and fidelity and the one on intellectualism. I agree with other critiques that the author is only interested in rich French women. I would like to see the same formula in this book applied to other cultures; Africa, Brazil, Japan. ...more
Ashlie
Mar 22, 2009 Ashlie rated it really liked it
This was a very good read for me. It was also a quick read. It is very comparable to Mireille Guiliano's written works except this was written by a Brit--who are known for their crude and rough demeanor. Helena Frith-Powell really helps the reader understand the French. She started on our level, interviewed any and every French person with status and was able to reach her goal of obtaining all the secrets and rules to follow to be impossibly French. This was all capture and made into a culturall ...more
Sherry
Apr 15, 2012 Sherry rated it liked it
Shows the big difference between American women and the French for sure. Something's I would adapt in my life, like wearing the best and pretties underwear I could afford. It also made me think how FAT us Americans are and how we just eat too much. The French women do look skinnier and hold their own better than American women do. But I'll have to pass on the sleeping with other men while I am in a relationship with someone else or married. It was entertaining to read though!
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Helena Frith Powell used to write the French Mistress column in The Sunday Times about living in France. She has also been a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.

Helena is the author of More France Please, we’re British, a book published in November 2004 by Gibson Square Books about her experiences in Fran
...more
More about Helena Frith Powell...

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