‘Ciao Bella’ – Press Association review
Review of Ciao Bella by Carla McKay
Ciao Bella is a travel book with a difference. Helena Frith Powell goes to Italy to write a book about the glamour of Italian women but instead ends up recalling her first meeting with her real father and retracing a Grand Tour of Italy he took her on when she was an impressionable fourteen years old. The book moves between past and present as Frith Powell searches, once more, for her elusive and contrary father, an Italian intellectual who spends as much time advising her on sex as he does quoting Dante at her in an effort to improve her Italian.
The past is brought alive partly by this eccentric and larger-than-life character but also because we are told it through the eyes of a young English girl whose idea of a good dinner is egg, beans and chips at a Little Chef and who has never seen a palm tree, been in love, let alone sailed on a yacht and sat in the Royal box at the Scala in Milan. Frith Powell’s father shows her, and the reader, a world of glamour, culture and beauty. But it is not without disadvantages; he is a compelling but at times cruel character.
Frith Powell’s wry observations about modern Italy and descriptions of her first visit to Italy; the colours, the noise, the food, are told with a light and amusing style. Her search for her Italian identity and sexual awakening are things we can all relate to. I particularly liked the Venice chapters where she stays with a Venetian artist and re-lives the “erotic tour” of Venice her father took her on more than twenty years ago. There is also a hilarious chapter where her family manage to secure a coveted truffle – then argue as how best to cook it. Ciao Bella is an ideal stocking filler, an amusing, well written and enlightening read. I defy anyone not to enjoy it.
Carla McKay is a former literary editor of the Daily Mail.
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor in chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group. She writes a beauty blog www.beautyorbeast.uk.
Her third novel, The Arnolfini Marriage, based on a romance that evolves around a van Eyck masterpiece came out in 2016. As well as contributing regularly for newspapers and magazines, writing short stories and studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, Helena is also working on a thriller called Welcome to Smullö that will be published in spring 2020.
Her latest non-fiction work Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles came out in hardback in 2016 and came out in paperback in April 2018.
Helena was educated at Durham University and lived in the Languedoc region of France for eight years, where the family still have a home. She lives between there and London with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019