You don't need to spend time in France to know that French women, particularly Parisian women, have a certain je ne sais quoi. After all, they are (in)famous all over the world for their style and elegance. In All You Need to Be Impossibly French , Englishwoman Frith-Powell explores this world of French feminine culture, with interesting results. As an expatriate living in France, she chronicles her own experiences trying to become more French, and she befriends many a French woman who give her insight into how they live, accomplishing the maximum results with minimal effort.
This witty and intelligent book isn't just about French style (which, to be more specific, is actually Parisian style). Frith-Powell examines how French women become so elegant, if not beautiful. It has to do with how they carry themselves. They never appear in public wearing sneakers. Exercise is something to be done in private. They won't even take out the trash without wearing makeup. She waxes poetic on the world of French women's underwear, face creams, dieting, and cellulite treatments. If this all seems a bit high maintenance, there are still some kernels of wisdom to be found here.
Frith-Powell also discusses how important education is to a French woman and delves into their love lives, which typically include infidelity. In order to be truly French, one must be both passionate and intellectually well-rounded. To prove this point, the author spends considerable amount of time extolling the virtues of French icons such as Coco Chanel, Simone de Beauvoir, and Colette.
This book is rife with pop culture references, which makes it a bit ephemeral. As Frith-Powell points out anyway, French culture is now changing to an extent that may eventually render this book irrelevant. French people are getting fatter. The Puritanical aspects of English and American culture are starting to invade French society. While French women still retain their title as the world's style icons, they may not hold it forever.
Since Frith-Powell is English, she cannot help making comparisons between French and British women, and even to some extent, American women. I'll leave you to read the book to discover her conclusions about these comparisons. While I will probably not follow the advice in this book to make myself more French, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable and whimsical read.