So I just finished reading the newly released English translation of Parsley & Coriander written by Antonella Moretti and wanted to recommend it to you, my dear readers.
While fictional, the story will ring true with many expats in China as Antonella drew from her real life experience of quitting her job, and uprooting her life to follow her husband who was sent to China for work.
The book focuses on a group of Italian women, almost all of whom came to China due to their husbands job, and all of whom live a very privileged life, with money, drivers, aiyi’s and a whole lot of free time on their hands. The story revolves around several of these women and how they deal with their extra time and living in a foreign country.
Now, I’m not gonna lie. Most of Antonella’s characters are the worst kind of expats to someone like me. They have disdain for China, mock anyone who tries to leave the expat bubble and treat having Chinese food at a local place like a expedition to mars…something wholly new and unbelievable.
The thing is that while I hate these kinds of expats, I am painfully aware they actually exist, and in many ways I felt like I was getting a secret look into the lives of these types of women, and found they were not as all vain and shallow as I thought. Well, not all of them anyway. Antonella drew from her own life and her own experiences and writes very convincingly. I would have no problem believing that the “fictional” characters are just her real life friends and acquaintances with new names. (Though in an interview at the Speaking of China blog, she swears they aren’t.)
This is not a book for someone who wants to get to know China better, or Chinese culture. This is 100% from the point of view of expat wives (called “trailing wives”) who suddenly find themselves living in another culture with basically no purpose and trying to fill their time and have a meaningful life. And that’s what I like about it. It gives a fresh take on the “foreigner in China” story. (No English teachers here bumbling their way around China.)
Instead it follows proper, almost prudish, mostly middle-aged women as they go about trying to figure out their place in this new world while trying to maintain their European sensitivities. My one critisism on the book is that the book focuses on the lives of several women and while each chapter is clearly marked over who’s story is being told, I found myself getting mixed up with the names and who was who at time. Parsley and Coriander gave me, someone who’s been here for awhile, a glimpse into this life of expats I’ve only seen from afar. And I found it fascinating!
If you would like to check out this book, and I recommend that you do, you can buy it on Amazon in both paper format or for your Kindle. Enjoy!