Eden Collinsworth has spent more time traveling and being away from home than most people you know. She is intimately familiar with China, having spent a lot of time there as a business consultant. This story is about the year she spent writing a manual for the Chinese on Western manners. Her tone is light and breezy, and she gives you the feeling that nothing fazes her.
Each chapter is titled with a subject relevant to manners, such as proper grooming, how to greet people, and how to behave at a dinner party. She shares personal anecdotes, then goes on to explain how these anecdotes relate to the writing of her book. More often than not, the chapter ends with a statement that leaves you hanging, and you eagerly go to the next chapter expecting the same thread to be picked up.
Her writing style is easy to read, but the subjects are many. She will lead off talking about turtles, then go into an explanation of Chinese cuisine, then end with some story seemingly irrelevant to the topics above. By the time I got to the middle of the book, I was expecting all her tales to end abruptly, and a new subject to be broached with the thinnest of segues. This is the only complaint I have about the book. Eventually a later chapter will return to the turtle, or a co worker, or the reason she was talking about her dinner party.
Collinsworth is a woman clearly used to dealing with men in a man’s world, and for that I admire her. She seems to be very lucky in her business dealings, and many opportunities landed in her lap simply as a result of being in the right place at the right time.
Some personal details, such as her then-husband, referred to as “W”, and her son’s growing up and maturing, figure prominently in the book. It’s a combination of a memoir, explanation of how her book on manners came to be written, and a Chinese history lesson.
My feelings about this book are mixed. To me, it was more about the author’s life, travels, and relationship with her family, with some background material related to Eastern vs Western manners. I came away knowing a little bit more about the Chinese mindset, but what stuck with me was how Collinsworth spent her life almost as a transient, always seeking the new experience over comfort and similarity. Perhaps the best way to review this book would be: akin to Chinese food–made up of many ingredients but not very filling over the long run. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.
You can pick up a copy here.
I received this book from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.