21 January 2012

Book Review: What the Chinese Don't Eat, by Xinran, ***

Since June 2003 Xinran has been writing about China in her weekly column in the Guardian. She has covered a vast range of topics from food to sex education, and from the experiences of British mothers who have adopted Chinese daughters, to whether Chinese people do Christmas shopping or have swimming pools. Each of her columns inspired letters and questions and more opportunities for Xinran to shed light on the culture of her native land. What the Chinese Don’t Eat collects these pieces together for the first time to give one unique Chinese woman’s perspective on the connections and differences between the lives of British and Chinese people today.

Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958 and was a successful journalist and radio presenter in China. In 1997 she moved to London, where she began work on her seminal book about Chinese women's lives, The Good Women of China, which has become an international bestseller. Her most recent book is Sky Burial.

This is an entertaining collection of articles the author wrote for "The Guardian" newspaper between 2003 and 2005. Letters from readers provide her with the opportunity to talk about the experience of a Chinese journalist moving to London, and her adjustment to a new reality there after her move in 1997. She also writes about how she found China has changed when she returns there years later.

All in all an interesting and easy reading, but not a deep one or particularly enlightening one. I am always skeptical of books made up of collected newspaper articles, and this one confirms my view that it is now always an idea that works well. Still, There are a few anecdotes here and there that make the book worth reading.

To buy Xinran's other books click here.

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