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

All You Need to Be Impossibly French by Helena Frith Powell
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's review
Jan 16, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: 2009
Read in January, 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 holier-than-thou with regards to some French traits (children, child rearing, and working most notably). And that is what leads to two stars here. The title is incredibly incorrect for this book. "Entre Nous" by Debra Ollivier felt much more to be about how to embrace those aspects that one admires in French women in your own life. Less like a criticism or discovery of why they do what they do. I did really enjoy her chapter on 'Text Appeal' and the importance of literature as well as the French heroines (both of fiction and authors) that they have. Comparing George Sand and Colette to Emily Bronte and Jane Austen is a laugh and a real (although caricature of both cultures) example of what we think of as the history of these women.

She quotes Edith Wharton in the book - and it is a divine expression of what I think of when I seek to bring more of 'my inner french woman' out: "The French are persuaded that the enjoyment of beauty and the exercise of critical intelligence are two of the best things worth living for" (pg 184).

At the end, she does some up her discovery well: "I am going to take what is useful from their way of life (and there is a lot) but stay fundamentally English. If this means drinking a bit too much Chardonnay at times or not having perfect nails three hundred and sixty five days a year, so be it. / My husband says the key is to 'keep your sense of humour but still be able to fit into your trousers.' Sounds like a good plan to me. / And obviously I'll be wearing garters and matching underwear underneath." (pg 219)

I just wish that her book was more like 'Entre Nous' and focused on how we can cull from ourselves what we (at least some of us) admire in French women. Without so much of the critique.
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