Style and the art of writing in France
Helena Frith Powell moves beyond beauty and chick-lit with her latest novel – and tells Jessica Knipe how moving to France has changed her life forever
Matching bra and knickers – check. Daytime-appropriate lipgloss – check. Driving through the picture-perfect vineyards of the Languedoc on my way to Gabian should be relaxing. But the only thing on my mind as I prepare to meet beauty journalist, four-time novelist and anti-ageing guru Helena Frith Powell is whether or not my skin looks sufficiently cleansed.
Gracefully brushing past the olive branches and lemon trees of her impeccable French country home, Frith Powell is manicured and blow-dried to perfection. I shouldn’t be all that surprised, since the concluding words of her successful guide to being stylish Two lipsticks and a lover are that the foremost thing to do to become more French (read ‘more elegant’) is to get a good hairdresser and manicurist. She wrote the book, and eight others, while bringing up three children, writing columns for The Times and the Daily Mail, and running a blog reviewing beauty products (www.beautyorbeast.uk).
As it happens, today her hair is glossy and bright from the addition of “silverlights”, a peppering of grey streaks and the latest of her anti-ageing experiments for the Daily Mail.
The theory is that there comes a certain age when it defies belief to have a head of perfectly coloured hair. Grey streaks provide the transition to the day the grey naturally takes over entirely. Frith Powell knows all about these techniques – her mastermind topic is beauty, elegance and that je ne sais quoi that French women seem to be born with. After many years spent in the heart of the French countryside, around 45 minutes from the nearest city, Frith Powell has become a veritable expert on French style, and especially on the difference between French and English women.
From chick-lit to art history intrigue
Her novels (Love in a Warm Climate, The Ex-factor) could be described as easy-going chick-lit, but Frith Powell’s latest novel, The Arnolfini Marriage, has a lot more to it than …
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.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France 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