The Woman’s Book (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2007)
“If Beauman’s book can make anybody else as entertaining, intelligent and successful as its author, it’s bound to be a smash.” – The Times
Have you ever wondered: How to deliver a baby? How to put up a tent in the dark? How to buy a swimming costume? How to decide whether or not accept a marriage proposal? Or have you grappled with the thorny issues of the etiquette of group sex, where to sit dysfunctional family members at a wedding, or how to say ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Would you like to dance?’ in thirty different languages? Have you found yourself lost for words at a dinner party, or struggling to remember Kate Moss’s boyfriends – and the haircuts she had while she was with them – or wanting to know the ingredients of a lipstick or the central premises of the world’s main religions? Then look no further. The answers to all these questions, and more, lie within the pages of this book. ‘The Woman’s Book’ is the definitive distillation of current wisdom for the modern woman. It is a celebration of all things female: a delightful cornucopia of essential facts, figures, diagrams, lists, pie charts, quotes and practical advice that deserves a place in every handbag, backpack or Birkin. True, you may not ever need to know how to roast a hedgehog, treat a shark bite, or say “No, thank you. Please leave me alone” in Russian. But isn’t it fabulous to know that you can?
“In order to join the Mitfords and so on at that exclusive celestial tea party, one really can’t do without absolute confidence, manifested in a concise prose style, with, possibly, a flash of campy humour. Take Francesca Beauman’s ‘The Woman’s Book: Everything But the Kitchen Sink ‘(Weidenfeld & Nicolson), another new addition to the how-to nostalgia genre…. The Woman’s Book is composed of startlingly incongruous and pointless gobbets: statistics about rainfall; what to do in the event of a “dirty” bomb; keeping a window box; etiquette for drinks parties, sailing holidays, group sex. And yet the skittishness is elegant, like Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, or as fans like to imagine the Mitford girls themselves, too grand to have had a proper education, but able to change a tyre, conjugate a verb, identify a dozen types of birdsong, by virtue of being Hons.”
- The Guardian
“Byron’s letter appears in a microchapter about thank-you notes in the catch-all compendium “Everything but the Kitchen Sink: What Every Modern Woman Needs to Know,” compiled by the self-assured young British television personality Francesca Beauman. By “Every Modern Woman,” Ms. Beauman seems to mean Pussy Galore and Madeleine Albright, and what she believes they need to know ranges from how to politely decline an invitation to group sex (“Gosh, what a lovely offer, but I’m okay, actually” ) to how to roast a hedgehog (roll in “moist clay” until “generously coated,” bake, then smash clay shell to remove bristles) to recipes for pineapple. Like Ben Schott’s miscellanies, or John Hodgman’s “Areas of My Expertise,” Ms. Beauman’s gleanings are meant for dipping into when the mood strikes, rather than wolfing down in one go. For instance, when stalking a celebrity at a shindig, “Do not line up with the hoi polloi. It is so undignified.” Instead, “ Wait until she or he is talking to just one other person, then approach.” Also, she implores, be kind to celebrities. “It is not uncommon for the more cynical among us to be overly rude to this particular species, in a laudable attempt not to appear obsequious,” she observes. If a regrettable gaffe occurs, Ms. Beauman has an all-purpose solution: Pretend to yourself “vigorously, passionately, and with true commitment that the faux pas simply never happened.”
- New York Times
And as featured on the New York Post’s Page Six.