Sunday, 25 September 2016

Book Review & Rant. "Pippa: Simple Tips To Live Beautifully" by Pippa O'Connor.

Let me start off by saying that I presume I am not the target audience for this book.  I am in my early forties, married with 5 kids, a full-time student and have passed the stage in my life where I give a shit what kind of contouring helps me look thinner/younger/more appealing to other women (and we all know that we are not doing this for men, right?).  I buy glossy magazines occasionally, but get more excited about  the articles than the current trend of face creams that have a starting price of ten million euro.  I love the fashion supplements of the weekend broadsheets as they provide many elements of entertainment in the vein of "who is the name of Jaysus has €3,800 for a SKIRT?" and occasional input from the males in the house that go something like this: "For feck's sake! Is she wearing an ACTUAL swan? Where would you be wearing that to? Tesco? €8000? Sure, you can have two." 

 I embrace the odd make-up tip. I'm currently loving the coconut cooking oil that doubles up as hair balm, eye-make up remover and skin moisturiser and smells like holidays - all for €3.99 in Aldi.

(Don't be fooled into buying the more expensive versions.  They are exactly the same thing).  I adore the humorous beauty chat from Marian Keyes and India Knight.  I think they know their stuff (usually expensive) but they are not at all patronizing.  Here is where I have qualms with this 'guide'.

Pippa is obviously beautiful. She smiles out at us from the cover of this coffee table book with amazing teeth, flawless skin and a flawless sofa.  There are hundreds of photos of her looking fantastically relaxed, coiffed and, well, perfect.  The title states she has 'Simple Tips To Live Beautifully'.  I would suggest that the book could have been much shorter.  It could have been a poster that said 'I was born with great DNA, have no money worries and a house that is decorated in varying shades of off-white (ie, we are either not allowed move very much, or we have an amazing lady who comes in to 'help-out').'   For example, Pippa has a section called 'Office', where we are shown a basically all-white room with a top-of-the-range white computer and printer (not a electrical cord to be seen) on a white desk, which is placed against a white wall hung with white pictures in white picture frames.  There are white candles and a white shelf which displays another white picture frame.  But the text says "I am gold obsessed.  If it's brass and shiny, I want it.  I love gold".  There is a teeny, tiny bit of gold on the candle jar (white) and some gold lettering within the picture frames, but it's hardly what I would call "gold obsessed".  Some 'wise' words then appear further down the page; "I believe it's really important to have a space somewhere that's just for you, that you love".  Indeed.  I'm sure there are thousands of young mums who never thought of that...

Fashion and beauty tips are dotted throughout the book, with drawing of body shapes (reminding me of 1980s Jackie Magazine), advice on "How To Look Slimmer" (The right bra and slimming shoes seem to trump the concept of avoiding fatty foods) and four pages about buying jeans.  There is then some life-changing advice on buying investment pieces. "when spending a month's rent on an 'investment' piece, it's important to make sure you're purchasing wisely".  Ground-breaking stuff. *sighs*

One of the most entertaining sections, in this household, was How To Take A Selfie.  We had a family dinner where we decided we should use Pippa's tips.  So, "go to a window.  A frosted window in a bathroom works really well" (I made do with kitchen as I wanted to actually spend time with my family).  "Hold your arm higher than your face" (My kids were shouting "higher, higher!" as I got cramp in my shoulder). "tilt your head to the side, chin slightly angled down" (Like you are looking for dandruff, maybe?).  "Eyes wide open but don't lift your eyebrows or you'll just look shocked" (I over-played this for entertainment purposes).  All in all, an afternoon photo session which had us in hysterics.  The pictures were awful, but who cares?

I was surprised at this book and its content.  While it is produced with lavish care and attention, high quality glossy paper and beautiful photographs, it is beyond basic.  I think I may have read home economic books with more advice.  Certainly a cursory glance at any regular magazine since 1980 would give you the same information, albeit without selfie tips.  I felt huge unease with the overall concept and the tone was dumbed down to a playschool level.  Ireland is full of strong, independent young women who need to be told that image is NOT everything.  You can live beautifully without red lipstick and 75 make-up brushes.  If you look shit in your selfie, so what? Laugh about it and take another.  If you can afford to spend a months wages on one item, fair play to you.  Go for it. 

  But, for most of us, those days will not last forever (says the voice of experience).  Sometimes a bargain in Pennys can produce an equally thrilling experience, albeit with brown paper bags rather than gold, rope-handled ones.

In the spirit of fairness, I asked a seventeen year old to look at this book.  She follows Pippa on social media and thinks she is great.  However, she rolled her (beautifully made-up) eyes and was dismayed.  Like me, she thought it was insultingly simple and felt let down.

Pippa is a beautiful woman, who seems to have a wonderful family and great genes (and jeans).  I just wish she had given some depth to accompany the fantastic photos.  Instagram is one thing, a book is another....

Pippa: Simple Tips To Live Beautifully is published by Penguin Random House Ireland and is published in HB on 8 October 2016.


  1. Noreen O'Connell25 September 2016 at 06:18

    Well said! I pity the younger generation being subjected to this sort of frivolous tripe. How depressing.

    1. Judging by the comments on FB and twitter, we are not alone. I think I hit a nerve :)

  2. Thanks for the laugh Margaret. A fabulous review. I feel exactly the same about these "perfect" lifestyle tomes!

    1. I get the shivers when I see Hello or VIP magazines...

  3. I half wondered whether she used the title PIPPA (which is her name of course) so that the reader's neural nerve link was first with Pippa Middleton, thus immediately giving her momentary royal kudos, to add to the other papp she talks about...

  4. I don't think so. She is a big enough 'celebrity' in Ireland and we, as a nation, would not link ourselves to English monarchy. Her name would be well known it's own right. She is also married to another 'celeb', Brian Ormand, a TV 'star'. Life is perfect, don't you know??

  5. Well said! Thank you for being honest and stating what so many of us are actually thinking and feeling.

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