Sunday, March 3, 2013

Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me: A Guide to Living with Impeccable Grace and Style by Lucia van der Post

I enjoyed researching the background for my review of Lucia van der Post’s Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me as much if not more than the book.  More on that later, but first, let me tell you about the book and the author.

One day while standing in the checkout line at Anthropology, I fell victim to one of those seductive “impulse buy” table of items. You know what I mean. At Target it’s gossip magazines, candy and super glue. At Anthropology it’s adorable little tea cups, salt and pepper shakers shaped like birds, luxurious journals, and books with intriguing titles, like Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me: A Guide to Living with Impeccable Grace and Style.

The table of contents promised tidbits of wisdom on clothes and looking good, love, marriage and kids, work, food, home, perfect presents, and how to have fun! Wow, I thought, I can use a brush-up on those topics. Of course lurking in the back of my mind was curiosity as to how this book might compare to my One Hundred Things My Mom Taught Me A Million Times. 

Although it is quite apparent in reading the book that author Lucia van der Post (pictured) is not your average advice columnist, it wasn’t until I embarked on this review that I found out just exactly how weirdly famous she is. Van der Post, called the “Grande Dame of Luxury” and a “Renowned Style Arbiter,” is Founding Editor of the curiously titled and wildly popular How To Spend It pages of the UK-based Financial Times. Her many awards are even more curiously titled, and include the Luxury Briefing Award for Excellence, and several Jasmines for perfume features. Her father Laurens van der Post, described as Afrikaner, author, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Prince Charles, godfather of Prince William, humanitarian, philosopher, explorer, conservationist, and accused fraud, is even more alluring, but I digress. Click on read more below...

My book reading tends to migrate from room to room in my home. I start every book in my living room. If I can’t put it down, it graduates to my bedroom. If it is interesting enough for casual reading, but not riveting, it takes up residence in my bathroom. If I want to love it, but can’t seem to latch on, it joins the stack by my living room chair. Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me lived in my bathroom for a good eight months, which tells you that I liked it but I didn’t love it, and I wanted to finish it but I wasn’t in any particular hurry.

The first 156 pages (half the book) are all about clothes and grooming. As a mere dabbler in fashion, this part of the book was of slight interest to me. What I did find intriguing was van der Post’s shopping recommendations in Great Britain (her home country), Paris, and in New York. One doesn’t have to go any further than one’s computer to “have it all,” and exploring the websites of those tantalizing treasure troves was fun.

Other than the shopping recommendations, and some of the entertaining, decorating and gift tips (all of which reminded us that giving of ourselves is greater than throwing dollars to impress), the most I can say is that this book is casually entertaining, which I doubt was the prime purpose.  Now, back to the very amusing reviews of the book that I saw here and there.

First, there were the snobby reviews by the snob snobs (people who are snobs about snobs.)  It was actually pretty funny reading reviews that ridiculed Ms. van der Post for her fondness of “luxury” items: “Pretentious drivel,” and “This book should have been titled ‘Lessons in Snootiness and Snobbery,’" and, “This is probably the Kardashian family's favorite book.”

This comment from another reviewer sort of sums up my take on this treatise, “The book is an easy, fun read, full of non-preachy decent advice. Sort of like having your favorite classy great-aunt sharing all her secrets. Well worth the $, if you are looking for advice on understated elegance for the non-aristocrat.” And then there was this titillating, 10-word review, “Great advice for women who don't just want to exist.”

Read it? Not really. Although there are some timeless recommendations, much of the information is probably out of date as it was written in 2008.

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