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BOOK REVIEW – Better Than Beauty: A Guide to Charm

Author: Helen Valentine, Alice Thompson
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication Date: Oct. 21, 2011
Genre: Health, fitness and dieting

“Charm is a glow within a woman that casts a most becoming light on others.” – John Mason Brown

In 1938, Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson decided that the world (primarily women) needed updated direction on the mastery of charm. To meet this need, they wrote “Better Than Beauty: A Guide to Charm.”  This book focuses not only on proper etiquette, but also on appearance and cleanliness.

According to Valentine and Thompson, “…charm has many ageless qualities, but its outward signs are born of the period, the day’s news, the tempo of the times.”

In the first part of “Better Than Beauty,” Valentine and Thompson focus solely on physical appearance.  They provide instructions regarding how to properly clean one’s self, how to apply one’s makeup and how to dress appropriately for one’s body type and color palette (skin tone and hair color). I was a bit taken aback at how much attention they gave to such superficial topics until I realized the time period during which they wrote the book.

True to the era, they state, “Your skin, your makeup, your hair, your hands, the way you sit, the way you stand — these are the priming coat, the background upon which all qualities are imposed.”

Much as I want to disagree, Valentine and Thompson do have a point — if you don’t make a good impression with your appearance, you may not have the opportunity to make a good impression with your personality.

Once they have thoroughly discussed the exterior, Valentine and Thompson move on to charming behavior and conversation. This is where I think the book really shines.

In today’s society (at least in the U.S.), a great many people seem to have thrown manners and etiquette out the window. The second half of “Better Than Beauty” re-emphasizes how a lady should conduct herself.  I took notes. You should, too!

With the exception of some incomplete sentences, the book was quite easy to read and understandable.

I recommend it with a word of caution — take the advice with a grain of salt. Many things have changed since 1938.

For example, the book states, “It isn’t smart to be hard, and we use the word smart in both of its meanings. We have returned to the feminine in dress and attitude. We are not competing with men, but rather working with them.”

In some situations, this may still be applicable, but it is not entirely true, say, for the corporate world.

Stefanie Paquin is an avid reader of books about psychology and sex education, a “gearhead,” a self-taught photographer and bicycling enthusiast. She is also a blogger, which you can follow her at closednomore.wordpress.com. Originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she now resides in St. Clair Shores.
Reviewed by Stefanie Paquin on 28 January 2014

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