There’s not a month that goes by here in China without some remembrance of my first tentative steps into this country. How I stammered my way through even the simplest of conversations, and could hardly understand anything people said in return. My fears of venturing out to do commonplace things we usually take for granted – going to the post office, shopping at the supermarket, buying meds at the pharmacy, dining at a restaurant. The times when I would cry out of frustration of adapting to such a foreign culture, or simply because I was lonely and longed for the comforts of something familiar. The moment I fell in love with a local Chinese man.
Getting to know China that first year was such a formative time for me. I never realized that a chance decision to work here would eventually change my life and love forever. Despite all the challenges involved, I look back on that time with gratitude, knowing I wouldn’t be who I am today without it.
It’s a joy to remember this. But it’s also a joy when I happen to read a book that captures the spirit of finding your own path in China, especially as a woman. Parsley & Coriander is a delightful novel by Antonella Moretti that does just that, through the stories of Italian expat women in China.
In this compelling story of Luisella and her circle of friends and acquaintances, Moretti brings to life many of the foreigners I’ve met in China. Entrepreneurs and working girls. Foreign students smitten with Chinese men. Expat wives-turned-writers. Trailing spouses, uncertain what to make of their new home.
Despite the fact that this is a novel told through an expat lens, Moretti doesn’t shy away from the darker, more prejudicial sides of the China expat community – those content to criticize China about everything. While Parsley & Coriander is never preachy, the underlying message is clear – open yourself up to new perspectives, and give China a chance.
You’ve already had a taste of Parsley & Coriander through the guest post Antonella Moretti penned for the blog last month (On Being An Expat Wife in China). I’m excited to feature Parsley & Coriander and Antonella Moretti once again through this interview.
Here’s her bio from Goodreads:
Antonella Moretti is an Italian expat blogger and writer living in China since 2011. In her blog cucinanto.com she likes to share her experience as an Italian mom and trailing spouse living in China, always trying to understand the differences and contradictions between the Chinese society and Western culture. She is a contributor for online magazines and writes about expat life. Her first novel “Parsley and Coriander” tells the story of three Italian women who left their life in Italy behind and followed their husbands in China: it is a story about love, friendship and the courage of making choices.
Would you like to win a FREE copy of Parsley & Coriander? If you have a mailing address in China, why not participate in a giveaway today! Scroll down for details.
Tell us about what inspired you to write this novel.
When I started my expat journey, living in China was new and exciting for me and I wanted to share everything about it. Moreover, I had the chance to know many different women and I was fascinated by their stories. Each of them had an interesting point of view and a different experience and I thought this was the right topic for a novel. In the book, all the characters live a different adventure, and yet they have a lot in common.
You’ve based much of your writing on the people you’ve met here in China, including your friends. How have they responded to the book?
Yes, I took a lot from daily life and many of my friends told me they really could relate to the emotions of the women in the book. But at the same time I mixed everything in order to create different stories and fictional characters, so nobody could really identify with a specific one! I confess I was a little afraid about how they could respond to the book, but they loved it! And I still have all of my friends!
How did you come up with Assunta’s, the Italian cafe featured in the novel run by a Chinese woman who has lived in Italy?
I liked the idea that the most popular hangout place for Italians in town was actually run by a Chinese woman. Italians are very proud of their food, their wine and coffee and I found it funny that Assunta chooses for herself a typical name from Southern Italy and claims to make the best Espresso in China.
Unfortunately, that is a completely imaginary place: in Suzhou we don’t have a cafe like that, where you can go and always find some Italians to chat with, drinking the perfect Espresso. And we really miss it!
Which character was your favorite to write and why?
My favorite character to write was Emma, because her adventure is the most tormented and romantic in the book. Writing her story, I really identified with her feelings: I got angry when she did, I cried when she was sad… I found her personality fascinating and I really loved her.
Your novel features a variety of relationships experienced by expat women in China, from trailing spouses to students to entrepreneurs. Without revealing any major spoilers, could you share with us some of your favorite relationship moments in the book?
I found interesting the relationship between Camilla, the young student in love with China, and Fulvia who, instead, hates everything of her Chinese experience and is very negative and sarcastic. Of course, in the story they have many occasions to fight! This also gave me the chance to talk about the different perceptions of China by foreigners.
What do you hope readers gain from reading your novel?
I hope readers will identify with the emotions of the characters, and discover they are not alone when they must cope with the difficulties of expat life in China. And also realize that living here can be a great opportunity when you are flexible and able to adapt. For those used to China, it can represent a memory of their experience while living in the country. And I also hope it can be useful for those who plan to move here: it gives a glimpse of what you could expect once arrived in the Middle Kingdom.
Would you like to win a FREE copy of Parsley & Coriander? If you have a mailing address in China, why not enter the FREE book giveaway going on right now on WeChat?
(For those of you not based in mainland China, but with friends or family over in China who could receive it for you, you can enter too!)
Here’s how to enter:
1. To be eligible to win, you must use WeChat on your mobile phone and have a mailing address in mainland China. (Note – if you haven’t installed WeChat, it’s easy to download. You can find it in most major app stores by searching for WeChat or微信, or get it directly from their website here).
2. Follow my official WeChat account. If you’re not already a follower, just scan the QR Code below using your WeChat app (here are directions on how to scan QR codes in WeChat):Or, you can search for my official WeChat account under the words “speakingchina”.
3. Finally, just send a message to my official WeChat account with the phrase “pc” and you’re entered.
It’s THAT simple.
Remember, entries must be received by 11:59pm tonight (May 18) Beijing time. Only one entry per person. Tomorrow, on May 19, I will randomly choose a winner from all the entries and notify them via my WeChat official account.
Good luck to everyone!
By the way, if you’re in Suzhou, China on Saturday May 20 and would fancy an evening of fine wine and books, you can meet Antonella Moretti in person: