Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
As a far too provincial American I know a lot more about select favorite periods in European history than I do about the continent today, but this informative, fascinating, and engaging book went a long way toward bringing me up to date. Indian journalist and author Pallavi Aiyar attended university in England, married a man from Spain, and has lived in and written about the changing world of China, making her perspectives on European economics, politics, and daily life particularly insightful and often eye opening and counterintuitive, at least to me. For instance, worries about contaminated milk and other such concerns aside, Aiyar and her husband generally found shopping much easier in communist China, where eager store owners will reopen their shops for a late customer, than they did in capitalist Belgium, where store schedules cater to employees who don’t want to work evenings or weekends rather than to customer convenience or any business bottom line.
New Old World combines detailed factual reportage of the people, places, and policies of Europe with Aiyar’s personal experiences of living in the capital of the European Union with her young family, which presents a fuller picture than either angle alone would do. Because of her background in China and India, Aiyar also writes fluently about Europe relative to those two rapidly emerging nations. Topics she addresses include the state of the EU, climate change politics, demographic shifts in industry, cultural legacies, immigration, Islam, the euro crisis and the regional squabbles it created, the lingering effects of colonialism, and the very strange political situation in Belgium and how that affected the party she gave in her mixed language Brussels neighborhood. Based on how much I enjoyed New Old World I purchased Aiyar’s earlier book on China, where she lived for seven plus years before Belgium. Aiyar has now moved with her husband and children to Jakarta--I can’t wait to read what she has to say about Indonesia.