Book review: Parsley & Coriander

17 September 2019

The EAC library welcomes books about any topic related to expatriate life, including self-published novels. Parsley & Coriander, also published in Italian titled as Prezzemolo & Cilantro, is one of our newer additions. EAC volunteer Kirsten Waller reviews.


By Kirsten Waller

Antonella Moretti’s book Parsley and Coriander follows the stories of three Italian women, each of whom has moved to China with a different goal in mind (despite the common ‘trailing spouse’ theme).

Luisella is happily settled in the country, but finds the possibility of potentially returning to Italy a daunting prospect. Astrid has arrived to join her husband with their two children, and is finally able to appreciate the distance she now has from her difficult family situation at home. And Emma has travelled in a vain and, as it turns out, hopeless attempt to rescue her failing marriage, before embarking on a tentative relationship with a Chinese man.

The book is written so that the story jumps between different characters and threads throughout. Moretti uses this device to introduce us to a huge range of supporting characters outside of the main protagonists and their immediate families, and is therefore able to explore many other types of expat experience — from that one clique who have no desire to settle in their adoptive country to those who are overly keen to integrate as much as possible. The book takes a fairly even-handed view and works hard to present the various choices as being in character, thus allowing for a complex and rich interpretation of Italian expat life to be presented.

However, there is a slight discrepancy between what the book is trying to do and what it achieves. The above approach to the narrative means that the text doesn’t quite settle, falling somewhere between a novel and a series of reflective character-driven essays. But for an intimate look at daily life in a fast-paced Chinese city, it can’t be faulted.