Saturday, October 27, 2012

Celebrate - Pippa Middleton - a review

by William Hanson, Etiquette expert and social commentator
HuffPost Culture - UK

I shall admit that when I heard everybody's second favourite Middleton was doing a book on party planning, I was a tad cynical. Many will know that her parents run a (very successful) business called 'Party Pieces', which supplies equipment for such parties. Could this be a way to help PR the family firm, perchance?

The book is expensive, in every sense of the word. The pages are of thick, quality paper, it's in full colour, hard-backed and there are more artsy photos than you could possibly ever want... or need.
Full credit to the author for acknowledging in the first sentence in the introduction why she is allowed to publish this book ('the bottom'). I did warm to her at this point, as she clearly knows that she is cashing in here. Oh, and - klaxon - her parents' business is mentioned by name in the introduction too. Clever, Pip!
W. H. Smith has the book filed under 'cookery', whereas it has been billed as a book on party planning. I can see why Smith's have opted for their categorisation, as the book contains a loft conversion of recipes. Delicious looking recipes at that! I may even try a few myself. Whether the recipes actually work is another matter and I shall allow a qualified cook to comment on the culinary offerings.

The pictures are, frankly, nauseatingly middle class. I am loath to bang on the class drum again (as I feel the Middletons have had enough of all that in the past) but she hasn't helped herself here at all. Only the children in her book eat at tables, whereas every adult seems to be eating on their laps. Shame. And if there were a drinking game along the lines of 'take a sip every time you see a man in pink or red chinos', then you'd be sloshed by the time you got to page 60 (of 414 pages). It seems each image is designed to appeal to the same demographic who believe the E4 show Made in Chelsea is representative of the London borough, or who want to be one of the cast.
There are some fun craft activities for those who have the time to make crystallised flower-whatsits. I guess they would appeal to young children.

Where the book falls short is actually going into much detail. As an experienced giver (and receiver) of parties, I did not glean anything I did not already know from Miss Middleton's tome, and I doubt whether the minimal party planning knowledge on offer will impress anyone else who has ever thrown a candlelight supper. No word on guest lists, how to invite them, dress codes, hostess gifts, how to set up a buffet table, expectations of the host & guests, tools of the trade, knowing when to leave. Maybe she'll release a sequel. Let's all hold out for that.
In short, it is an even more middle-middle class version of Nigella's 2006 work Feast. Good luck to Pippa, I say, but the book won't electrify many. It seems Pippa is just playing at it, rather than taking it seriously.
(Also - as a side note, Miss Middleton - the table is set incorrectly on page 207. Once an etiquette consultant... etc.)

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