Staying in with A. J Griffiths-Jones

Isobel

Sadly I just can’t fit in reviews of every book I’d like to read, but I am very pleased to welcome A.J Griffiths-Jones to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about a book I know I’d love if only I could get to it!

Staying in with A. J Griffiths-Jones

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, A.J. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

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I’ve brought along my brand new release Isobel. I’ve chosen it as I feel that it really reflects how I’ve grown as a writer and how I’ve learned character development over the years. I’m very excited about this book as it’s the first in a series of six and I think readers will warm to the detectives as they grow throughout the journey.

How exciting to have a brand new series. I have to say, I think that cover is stunning!

 So tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with Isobel.

You can expect a journey to the French countryside, with lavender fields & warm baguettes. However, you’ll find a myriad of secrets too and characters who have relatable issues, things that anyone might have experienced in their life. My readers tell me that I know how to get right under my character’s skin and I think that’s what anyone new to my work will take away with them.

Sounds wonderful. What else have you brought along and why? 

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I’ve brought a bottle of deep French Merlot, some soft crusty bread and melted Camembert cheese and photos of my holidays in Bordeaux which hold great memories of picking grapes, laughing around a campfire and friends from around the globe.

I love baked Camembert A.J. I can’t drink red wine as it makes me ill, so you can have that and I’ll just have slightly more than my fair share of the bread and cheese!

Thanks so much for telling me about Isobel A.J. Let’s give blog readers the details:

Isobel

Isobel

As the sleepy French village of Saint Margaux eagerly awaits its new resident, in the form of professional pastry chef Isobel Gilyard, tongues are already wagging.

A few days later, when local vineyard owner Cecile Vidal is brutally murdered, fingers naturally point towards the newly arrived Englishwoman.

Suspicion is not without foundation, as Isobel was seen near the murder scene, and holds some deadly secrets of her own.

As Inspector Max Mallery tackles his first case for Bordeaux police, he’s thrown a curveball in the form of Yorkshire detective Jack Hobbs who joins the team with enthusiasm and English wit.

As investigators untangle a tightly woven web of clues, Isobel finds herself trapped on the wrong side of the law.

Isobel is available for purchase here.

About A. J Griffiths-Jones

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A. J Griffiths-Jones was born near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK. She has travelled extensively throughout her career and has recently returned to England after ten years working as Language Training Manager for a bank in Shanghai. A.J. has studied genealogy for many years and has a special interest in Victorian crime.

You can follow A.J. on Twitter @authoraj66., or visit her website for more information. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

#HeatstrokeBook Cover Reveal: Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

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When I first heard about Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth I knew it would be just my kind of read and I’m absolutely delighted to be helping reveal the details about it today. My enormous thanks to Jo Liddiard for inviting  me to participate.

Heatstroke will be published by Headline Review on 28th May 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

Heatstroke

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The summer burns with secrets…

It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police.

At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children.

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Intoxicating and compulsive, Heatstroke is a darkly gripping, thought-provoking novel of crossed boundaries, power and betrayal, that plays with expectations at every turn.

Now doesn’t that sound intense and intriguing? I cannot wait to read Heatstroke. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy it immensely.

About Hazel Barkworth

Hazel Barkworth

Hazel Barkworth is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing Course. She lives in London with her partner, and works as a cultural consultant. Her debut novel Heatstroke will be published by Headline in 2020.

You can find Hazel on Instagram and Twitter @BarkworthHazel.

The @YoungWriterYear #YoungWriterAward Shadow Panel Winner

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It was an exciting afternoon last Thursday when I headed off to the FMcM offices near Kings Cross to meet with my fellow Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award Shadow Panel Members Anne Cater, of Random Things Through My Letter Box, David Harris of Blue Book Balloon, Clare Reynolds of Years Of Reading Selfishly and Phoebe Williams of The Brixton Bookworm so that we could discuss the shortlisted books and choose our winner under the expert chairmanship of Houman Barekat.

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Having debated the merits of each of the books in turn, sharing our thoughts and opinions, and with any one of the fabulous books having the potential to win, we were delighted to come to a decision.

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The Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award

Shadow Panel Winner

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Our winner is the senstaional Salt Slow by Julia Armfield.

We chose Salt Slow because of the beautiful way in which Julia Armfield illustrated everyday situations with a fresh and new approach through her descriptive and lyrical writing. We found she entertained, disturbed and engaged her readers in equal measure through her compelling short stories.

I might add that we all found the cover of Salt Slow incredibly attractive too!

Here’s a little about Salt Slow:

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

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In her brilliantly inventive and haunting debut collection of stories, Julia Armfield explores bodies and the bodily, mapping the skin and bones of her characters through their experiences of isolation, obsession, love and revenge.

Teenagers develop ungodly appetites, a city becomes insomniac overnight, and bodies are diligently picked apart to make up better ones. The mundane worlds of schools and sleepy sea-side towns are invaded and transformed, creating a landscape which is constantly shifting to hold on to its inhabitants. Blurring the mythic and the gothic with the everyday, Salt Slow considers characters in motion – turning away, turning back or simply turning into something new entirely.

Winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018, Armfield is a writer of sharp, lyrical prose and tilting dark humour – Salt Slow marks the arrival of an ambitious and singular new voice.

Published by Pan Macmillan imprint Picador, Salt Slow is available for purchase through the links here and you can read my full review of Salt Slow here.

In case you missed any of the other brilliant shortlisted books, here are the details you need:

The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus

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An extraordinary debut from a young British-Jamaican poet, The Perseverance is a book of loss, language and praise. One of the most crucial new voices to emerge from Britain, Raymond Antrobus explores the d/Deaf experience, the death of his father and the failure to communicate. Ranging across history, time zones and continents, The Perseverance operates in the in betweens of dual heritages, of form and expression emerging to show us what it means to exist, and to flourish.

Published by Penned in the Margins, The Perseverance is available for purchase though the links here and you’ll find my full review of The Perseverance here.

Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler

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When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.

This is a novel of growing up between cultures, of finding your space within them and of learning to live in a traumatized body. Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity.

Published by Little Brown imprint Fleet, Stubborn Archivist is available for purchase through the links here and you’ll find my full review of Stubborn Archivist here.

Testament by Kim Sherwood

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Of everyone in her complicated family, Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter – and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she’s hit by a greater loss – of the questions he never answered, and the past he never shared.

It’s then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.

But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel – of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.

Kim Sherwood’s extraordinary first novel is a powerful statement of intent. Beautifully written, moving and hopeful, it crosses the tidemark where the third generation meets the first, finding a new language to express love, legacy and our place within history.

Published by Quercus imprint Riverrun, Testament is available for purchase through the links here and you’ll find my full review of Testament here.

judges

With the official Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award being announced at a ceremony in London on 5th December, I can’t wait to attend to see whether judges Kate Clanchy, Victoria Hislop, Andrew Holgate, Gonzalo C. Garcia and Nick Rennison agree with our decision!

Mondays In October by Sheree K. Nielsen

Mondays in October

Many of you know that I used to be an assistant alongside my wonderful photographer husband some years ago, so when Sheree K. Nielsen told me about her new book of poetry and photography Mondays In October I simply had to take a look. My grateful thanks to Sheree for sending me a copy in return for an honest review and an apology that this review is on a Wednesday in November rather than a Monday in October!

Sheree last featured on Linda’s Book Bag when we stayed in together to chat all about her book Ocean Rhythms: Kindred Spirits in a post you can read here.

Mondays In October is available for purchase directly from the publisher or here.

Mondays In October

Mondays in October

Soulful as a cricket’s song serenading a marsh at sunset, two lovers dancing the tango in the sand, or the wind’s harmonies causing waves to lap to shore, Sheree K. Nielsen’s collection of poems and photographs, Mondays in October, suggests easy movements in nature, and a time for us to slow down—like autumn—and imagine a simpler life.

Mondays in October embraces Sheree’s unmistakable love songs for the beach, and her eternal companion—water—and the vulnerable, blissful, sensual rhythms connecting them.

My Review of Mondays In October

A series of photographic images with poems.

From the moment I realised this book is partly dedicated to nurses who helped Sheree K. Nielsen through her chemotherapy it touched me and that feeling of connection lasted throughout because it is such a lovely book.

I’d like to begin by mentioning the images in Mondays In October. They are incredibly beautiful, reflecting those elements that can enhance an individual’s mental and physical health depicting family, friends, pets and nature – all the things shown to help us lead happier lives. It was the photographs of water and beaches that I enjoyed the most and I could see them being used as a focus for meditation. I found myself feeling calmer simply by viewing them.

I adored the quality of Sheree K. Nielsen’s poetry. Many poems, such as THEIR FOURTH DATE, embody an entire narrative just as successfully as any short story or longer prose. Sheree K. Nielsen’s metaphors, such as the link between a conch and a human body, are sensitive, creative and frequently emotionally touching. Whilst the author conveys the fragility and insignificance of humans in the wider universe, she also displays their strength and resilience so that I found exploring Mondays In October a very uplifting experience. The writing is incredibly visual and beautiful with colour, movement and shape weaving through the verse. The poems employ poetic techniques with seamless skill to enhance their meaning. I found the alliterative repetition of B in in BE-ING, for example, created a rhythm that perfectly echoed the elements being described.

Mondays In October is a beautiful book, not just because of the lovely images it contains, but also because the poetry embodies a positive spirit that I found calming, engaging and soothing. It would make a wonderful gift for a troubled soul. I loved it.

About Sheree K. Nielsen

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Sheree K. Nielsen is Author/Photographer of 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances, a ‘healing’ coffee table book inspired by the rhythm of the sea and her lymphoma journey; coauthor of, Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat, a picture book about a sweet cat who learns to overcome her handicap, build confidence and discovers she’s okay just the way she is; and Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets – a reminder to be present in the moment, live life with wild abandon, invariably respecting, every living thing.

An award-winning author, poet and photographer, publications include AAA Southern TravelerAAA Midwest TravelerSouthern Writers MagazineSouth and North Brunswick MagazineLong Weekends, Missouri LifeBreaking SadProud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, and many other anthologies, newspapers, and websites across the nation.

She’s dove with sharks, dolphins, stingrays, turtles, had her toes bitten by iguanas, met Triple Crown winning jockeys, participated in David Copperfield’s disappearing act “13”, survived Tropical Storm Jerry on a liveaboard, and walked on a disappearing sand bar.

When not writing, she’s usually discovering new beaches and coffeehouses with her husband, and two goofy dogs. Four content cats round out her family on three acres in Missouri.

She has an uncontrollable dependency on dark chocolate.

You can find out more about Sheree on Facebook and Instagram, follow her on Twitter @ShereeKNielsen and visit her website.

Better Never Than Late by Chika Unigwe

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Having previously eschewed reading short stories, 2019 has been a year I’ve found them so enjoyable to read and I’d like to extend my enormous thanks to Layla Mohammed at Cassava Republic for sending me a copy of Chika Unigwe’s collection of short stories, Better Never than Late.

Published by Cassava Republic Press Better Never Than Late is available for purchase through these links.

Better Never Than Late

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Better Never Than Late charts the unconventional lives and love affairs of a group of Nigerian migrants, making their way in Belgium. T

he collection is centred around Prosperous and her husband Agu, and the various visitors who gather at their apartment each week.

These interconnected stories explore their struggles and triumphs, from unhappy marriages (of convenience or otherwise), to the pain of homesickness, and the tragic paradox in longing to leave Nigeria so that you may one day return to it.

My Review of Better Never Than Late

Ten interlinked short stories about Nigerians living in Belgium.

Better Late Than Never is a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite the slimness of the volume, Chika Unigwe has produced an international microcosm in her stories that I found compelling and engaging.

We have so many racial stereotypes of Nigerian men travelling to Europe for marriages of convenience or a better life, but Chika Unigwe is unafraid to explore those situations with a humour, wit, empathy and clarity that makes her Better Late Than Never stories sing out as they both confirm and challenge such pigeonholing. These are narratives about people who feel real and authentic, particularly when direct speech is used. I loved the smatterings of languages I didn’t understand as it gave me an insight into how the characters felt uprooted and transplanted into another country. Having said that, Chika Unigwe also provides enough skilful explanation of those obscure linguistic moments that there is no loss of fluidity to the writing.

Although the men are frequently the reason why Chika Unigwe’s characters have made their way to Belgium, Better Late Than Never feels a very feminist text at times. Many of the women at first appear to have subservient roles, suppressing their intelligence and qualifications to support the men in their lives, but frequently they are feisty, emotional, manipulative and devious in ways that bring the stories to life. Prosperous especially helps provide a unity to the stories as well as being a detailed and fascinating person in her own right.

The most important aspect of Better Late Than Never for me, however, is the presentation of theme. They may be perfectly crafted fictions, but these stories illustrate the real people behind the headlines and their successes and failures. There’s everything from passion and love to bitterness and jealousy within these pages. Real homesickness, family relationships, ambition and a sense of self that can be developed or easily broken are just some of the themes explored. Of all the stories it was Añuli’s experience in How To Survive a Heatwave that affected me the most because what happens to her could so easily happen to any woman in any country.

In Better Late Than Never Chika Unigwe illustrates that she knows what it is like to be Nigerian, to be Belgian, and to be an outsider in a foreign land. But above all that, these fabulous stories show that she also knows what it means to be human, whoever or wherever we are. I really enjoyed reading Better Late Than Never because I ended the book having been educated, entertained and moved. I recommend it most heartily.

About Chika Unigwe

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Chika Unigwe is the author of four novels, including the acclaimed On Black Sisters’ Street (Jonathan Cape, 2009), and winner of the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature (2012). In 2014 she was selected as one of the Africa39 list. In 2016, Unigwe was appointed as the Bonderman Professor for Creative Writing at Brown University in Rhode Island, and was judge of the Man Booker International Prize in 2017.

For more information, follow Chika on Twitter @chikaunigwe and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Book Launch : Dr Barbara Xiaoyu Wang’s Guanxi in the Western Context:  Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment

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It was a somewhat different book launch that I attended on Tuesday 12th November at Hult Ashridge Executive Education, and one that held surprising links for me. At first glance, Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment by Dr Barbara Wang might not seem an obvious book for Linda’s Book Bag to feature, but given that I’m touring China next year and my M.Ed is in Educational Leadership and Management, I found the concept of Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment, a new China West cross-culture leadership and business management book, intriguing. My thanks to Olivia Sandu at Ash Communications for inviting me the launch.

Guanxi in the Western Context:  Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment is available for purchase here.

Guanxi in the Western Context:

Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment

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Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, the concept of guanxi has been widely researched from historical, cultural and political perspectives. As Chinese multinational corporations (MNCs) expand, expatriates are increasingly carrying guanxi with them to host countries, yet little has been written on how this indigenous construct is employed in the Western world.

This book takes a theoretical approach to the examination of this phenomenon and proposes a conceptual framework for the ‘guanxi capitalism structure,’ illustrating its fundamental role as the invisible hand in China.

Providing empirical analysis, the author demonstrates how guanxi affects intra-firm multicultural group dynamics involving Chinese expatriates and host-country natives in Chinese MNCs.

With insights for scholars researching Asian business and globalisation, and practitioners working in Chinese MNCs, this book argues that guanxi significantly alters an expatriate’s adjustment, and offers practical suggestions for cross-cultural management and the process of  initiating, building, and utilising guanxi in a Western context.

Dr Barbara Wang says, “This book contributes more generally to shed light on cross-cultural management in terms of Chinese guanxi practice in the Western context.  When I started my study I made assumptions that all Chinese executives practise guanxi.  However, I discovered that Chinese expats don’t practise guanxi with local Chinese for complex reasons as they don’t believe they can reap the returns they need.

“The other assumption I made was that local Europeans don’t understand or practise guanxi.  However, I learned that there is a desire to study Chinese culture and Westerners are motivated to practise guanxi even though it is not inherent to how they operate.

“I recommend that if Chinese companies want to improve their soft power they should take steps to study cross-cultural programmes and become ‘glocal’.  They should do their homework and understand and adapt to the local culture and be open to including everyone in guanxi, which will enhance their global cultural influence.  To sum up, guanxi is the code of China.”

Professor Davide Ravasi, director of the PhD Programme at UCL School of Management, comments, “From research in international business we know a lot about Western multinationals, but we know much less about the up and coming multinationals from China. Yet, many of these multinationals will likely dominate global markets in the years to come. Barbara Wang’s work illuminates for the first time how guanxi – a form of social interaction unique to the Chinese culture – shapes social relations in Western branches of these multinationals. It is an important reading for both Western managers who seek a deeper understanding of how their Chinese counterparts operate, and Chinese managers who want to increase their awareness of the culture they are immersed in.”

Professor John Yang, co-Dean of BiMBA at the National School of Development, Peking University, adds, “Barbara Wang’s new book on guanxi is full of insights and wisdom critical for both Western and Chinese expatriates as well as Chinese professionals overseas. The book not only contributes to making successful global business deals but also provides better cross-cultural perspectives to develop a healthier China versus world business relationship.”

Launch Day:

Guanxi in the Western Context:

Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment

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It was an early start to make sure I was at Euston station to be met by Ash Communications’ Lynda Heath at 9:20am and transported to the fabulous setting of Hult Ashridge for the launch of Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment. It was a glorious trip across Ashridge House Estate with the colours on the trees turning fiery colours for autumn.

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Having been welcomed by Dina Dommett, Head of Faculty, Hult Ashridge, Peter Bishop, Deputy Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce then interviewed Dr Barbara Wang about Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment. (You will be able to find a review of the book in the next edition of London Business Matters through the website.)

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The discussion was fascinating, not least because questions were asked in English and responded to in Mandarin with a translator providing detail so that all the audience could understand and this had the effect of transporting me back to the module I had studied for my Masters Degree on Language and Linguistics in Social Context. Dr Wang spoke so inspiringly that attending her book launch fired me with enthusiasm for an academic world I thought I had left behind.

I found Dr Wang’s desire to extend better understanding of culture in working practices to the benefit of all concerned an obvious, but sadly previously neglected concept, and applaud her actions in raising awareness of guanxi. Although she explained that her book is very much aimed at company managers, I have since had chance to read Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment and it is surprisingly accessible to a lay person like me. Indeed, as an example of research practice, I think it would be an invaluable exemplar of research methodology for anyone studying for a higher degree in any subject, not just business.

Immediately after the Q and A session I was privileged to have a brief discussion with Dr. Barbara Wang about culture and the extent to which she felt fiction might help cross cultural understanding as well as the concept of guanxi. She told me that she felt fiction was hugely important because it often has a wider reach and audience than academic books often have and that readers love to be entertained so that cultural messages can be embodied in fiction and absorbed more effectively. Sadly, Dr Wang had to leave to teach so I was unable discuss with her more at the time and she has kindly answered some of my questions since. You can read that interview below.

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Attendees were then treated to a buffet-style banquet provided by the in-house award-winning chef and live music in the Lady Marianne Room. Given that the music was played on a conventional Western acoustic guitar and a traditional Chinese pipa, or lute, I thought this was the perfect concrete embodiment of the type of cross-cultural links and guanxi Dr Wang had spoken about. With my book blogger interests it amused me considerably that the muscular male marble statues either side of the fireplace where we ate were allegedly based on the gardeners who worked at Asridge House and might have inspired D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

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Before we departed to return to London, guests were treated to a wonderful guided tour of Ashridge House. Several elements have been used in the Harry Potter films so again my fiction reading interests were piqued alongside my interest in the history of the building.

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We also came away with a robust and useful goody bag containing a jar of tasty honey made on the Ashridge Estate.

Having wondered whether the launch of an academic book Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment would really be of relevance and interest to me, the entire day was absorbing, entertaining and informative. The arrangements made by Ash Communications were exemplary and I found Hult Ashridge Executive Education inspiring. I’d like to extend my thanks to all involved in making it such an interesting day.

I an also heartily recommend exploring the concept of guanxi through Dr Barbara Wang’s informative and accessible book Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment, available here.

An Interview with Dr Barbara Wang

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Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions, Barbara. Tell me, if you had to distil the concept of guanxi into one sentence, what would you say?

Guanxi is the hierarchical human moral relationship derived from Confucian ethics for the purpose of long-term reciprocity, obligations, and mutual benefit grounded in the affection-based trust among all actors in the circle initiated by one person at a time.

Guanxi is based very clearly on a distinct Chinese culture and the guidance of Confucius. I often feel that we have no distinct cultural identity in the UK. What does your research tell you about the differences and similarities between the two cultures?

It needs another book to answer😊. To generalise, the similarities are: 1) social stratification 2) indirect communication, 3) pragmatism, 4)‘Birds of a feather flock together’. The differences are: 1)British have linear thinking, Chinese have holistic thinking; 2)British are individualistic, Chinese are particularistic; 3) British are rational, Chinese are emotional; 4) British focus on transaction, Chinese focus on relationship; 5) Britishmen know how to respect women (whether they can do is another question), Chinese men don’t know how to respect women (even if they want to) due to Confucian’ infamous quote: ‘only devious man and woman are difficult to deal with.’ 6) British rely on Teamwork, Chinese rely on a Leader; 7)British have democratic thinking, Chinese have hierarchical thinking.

Gosh. There’s plenty of food for thought and debate there!

Guanxi seems to echo the ‘old boy network’ that was once prevalent in public schools of Western society. How far is that a fair assessment?

Guanxi has been one of the most crucial elements of Chinese culture and remains relevant, although the “dark side” (corruption-related) of guanxi has been acknowledged, which definitely echoes the ‘old boy network’ to some degree.

Could you see the application of guanxi in the UK strengthening or weakening Dr Clotaire Rapaille’s definition of Class at the English ‘code’ for England?’

It is hard to say given the hierarchical and particularistic nature of guanxi, however, in a way, it might weaken the Class because guanxi is driven by individual influencing across all social classes which depends on specific people rather than a certain class. Therefore, it is quite common in Chinese history that peasants from low class overthrew aristocratic class through down-top guanxi building across classes.

That’s interesting as it somewhat echoes what has happened here in the past.

Your research interviews and ‘Degree of Adjustment’ findings suggest that Guanxi isn’t universally successful. How far have Chinese attempts to use guanxi in western contexts actually undermined Chinese identity rather than preserved it do you think?

I didn’t observe any case that Chinese undermined their identity, in contrary, the failure of guanxi practice attempts enforced their Chinese identity and increased their awareness of cultural difference.

From reading Guanxi in the Western Context it seems to me that guanxi could be likened to ocean tides, ebbing and flowing as tides do, depending on the perceived requirements of connections. How far would you define guanxi as a similarly organic concept (perhaps the rule of man) and how far as a mechanical one (the rule of law) depending on context?

Guanxi is affection-based, and the core of rule of man society, human touch or deep sharing of personal emotions between guanxi actors is fundamental. It might help increase deep communication among people in the society of rule of law, however, the nature of rule of law might defeat the purpose.

China is often seen as expending into Western markets in an unstoppable manner. To what extent would an understanding of the principles of guanxi help dispel any disquiet about that expansion in the Western world?

Guanxi development is time consuming, it would help in great deal if Chinese companies could do their ‘homework’ about western culture and customs before going abroad and take initiative to building guanxi in host country in a fashion of adapting to the ‘rule of law’ society.

I will be touring China for the first time next year, Barbara. What guanxi principles can I apply most readily to my interactions,as an ordinary person,with Chinese people I meet en route?

Be yourself, do some homework about Chinese culture and history, be open to personal emotions from Chinese, try not to say ‘No’ to any invitations unless it is too far from your comfort zone.Try to avoid any topics in relation to religion and politics.

I think that’s sound advice in any context!

And finally, Barbara, what would you like to see happen with guanxi in the western world and in China in future?

In addition to the efforts from Chinese, it would be great if westerners would be willing to understand China and Chinese. It requires efforts from both parties, i.e. Chinese should be more inclusive and open about guanxi building and westerners should be patient and relational for long-term business.

And I think you have just defined the perfect way to behave in so many areas of life. Many, many thanks for answering my questions Barbara and I wish you every success with Guanxi in the Western Context: Intra-Firm Group Dynamics and Expatriate Adjustment.

About Barbara Xiaoyu Wang

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Dr Barbara Wang is the academic director – China of Hult Ashridge Executive Education and association dean of China initiatives.

Her interests lie in cross-cultural leadership/management, and Chinese leadership and executive coaching.  She has extensive experience in management training and consulting and has designed and delivered leadership development programmes and coaching for multinational companies such as ABB, Volvo, Daimler, Continental, Sinopec, China Post, Bank of China and Air China. She also teaches on executive programmes for other British and Chinese universities.

Before her current roles, Barbara was a vice president for the Western Management Institute of Beijing.  Her commercial experience extends to working for multinational companies in China where she was the retail operations director for CELINE of the Louis Vuitton group, and the global accounts manager in China for DHL.

Barbara holds a PhD from Cass Business School in the UK, where her research focused on cross-cultural leadership/management of Chinese multinational enterprises in Europe. She has qualified in many leadership psychometric tools.

Barbara is co-author of Chinese Leadership (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Staying in with Tracey Scott-Townsend, Author of The Vagabond Mother

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Although it’s a while since I first met Tracey Scott-Townsend at an event called Oceans of Words, at which she was speaking, and my write up of which you can read here, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tracey a couple of times in real life as well as asking her onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about one of her books, Another Rebecca, in a post you can read here. I have also had the pleasure of reviewing some of Tracey’s poetry in her anthology So Fast and you can read that review here. Consequently, Tracey feels like a true friend and I’m delighted to be starting off the Love Books Group blog tour for her latest book The Vagabond Mother by asking Tracy to stay in with me to tell me all about it.

Staying in with Tracey Scott-Townsend

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Tracey. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for inviting me, Linda, it’s a pleasure to be visiting you again. (Offers Linda a hug.)

(Which Linda accepts with pleasure!)

I rather think I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening Tracey and why have you chosen it?

The Vagabond Mother front cover (1)

I’ve brought The Vagabond Mother along with me today. I’ve chosen this because it’s my upcoming novel, due to be released on 22 January, 2020. This is a very personal book, in a way, as the story was originally inspired by my youngest son, who went off travelling the world when he was only sixteen.

Crikey, that’s young to head off. Tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with The Vagabond Mother?

You can probably expect to be a little bit shocked at how Maya, the main character in the book, has changed over the two-plus years she’s been living the vagabond lifestyle. Honestly, you wouldn’t recognise her. She used to be one of those well-groomed middle-class village women who attended the local charity ball and held regular dinner parties in her conservatory-dining room, Now she’s thin, brown-skinned, wears her uncombed hair wrapped in a scarf and is capable of walking twenty miles a day, carrying a heavy backpack.

I think I’d rather like Maya! 

Expect Maya to regale you with tales about her adventures on the road, from Australia to Bali, Iceland, Denmark, Germany and Spain to name but some of the places she’s been to; sometimes staying in hostels and sometimes sleeping out in the wild. She can teach you about food-salvaging, how to toilet when there are no facilities, and how to come to terms with mistakes made in the past and set about putting them right. She might get her guitar out and encourage you to join in a song or two as well. I wouldn’t ask her too much about her husband, Con, though. She tends to clam up on the subject.

And now, of course, I want to know all about Con!

What else have you brought along this evening and why?

I’ve also brought along a copy of “The Vagabond Guide”, it’s full of helpful tips about food-salvaging, the best places to hitchhike from and where to sleep in the urban wild. It was actually written for me by my son for the book. I’ve included it at the end of The Vagabond Mother, along with some paragraphs written by my daughter-in-law, who also became a solo traveller from a young age. The two of them met in a hostel in Reykjavik, I was visiting my son there at the time and was privileged to be present at their first meeting.

How romantic. I love Iceland.

Another of the chapters in the book was contributed by my middle son, who described a street in Bali for me in great detail. All I had to do was insert my characters. Finally, I took inspiration for Maya’s son’s time working on a farm in Bundaberg, Australia, from my oldest son, who told me about his experiences at the same place.

With Bali and Australia also having been on my travels I think I’m going to enjoy The Vagabond Mother Tracey!

choc

I’ve brought along a selection of food and drink items from some of the countries Maya visits in the book. You might like to try a whale burger from Iceland, a heiße Schokolade from Germany, or tostados con tomate from Spain.

I’m not sure about a whale burger, but did someone say hot chocolate?

tom

I do love a guest who brings food. You’re welcome back any time!

I think we should listen to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez records as well, as these are some of the tunes Maya plays as a busker.

That sounds like perfect background music as you tell me a bit more.

I can tell you about my experience of sleeping in a ten-bed room in a vibrant Berlin hostel, which I challenged myself to do as part of my post-research for the book. Goodness knows what my room-mates in their twenties must have thought about the old lady in the corner bed, but for me it was a wonderful opportunity for some non-participatory observation, and gave me some valuable first-hand material to talk about in my promo for the book.

I  bet that was VERY entertaining! It’s been lovely chatting with you all about The Vagabond Mother Tracey. Thanks so much for stopping by. 

I’ve really enjoyed spending the evening with you, Linda. I hope you enjoyed Maya’s and my travelling tales, the music and the food. Thank for having me!

It’s always a pleasure. You’re welcome back any time Tracey.

The Vagabond Mother

The Vagabond Mother front cover (1)

Not every Vagabond is a Castaway…

Maya Galen’s oldest son, Jamie, left home eight years ago after a massive row with his parents and now Joe, her youngest child and apple of her eye, has cut off all contact with them too.

Called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she decides that the only thing she can do is follow in Joe’s footsteps and try to discover her most basic human self. Eschewing a monetary lifestyle, from now on she must rely on her physical and emotional strength to survive.

Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, she travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many other travellers along the way and learning valuable lessons.

Eventually a crisis forces her to return home and confront the end of her marriage, but also a new understanding of what family, in the widest sense, really means.

Exploring the big questions at the heart of human existence, The Vagabond Mother shares territory with books and films such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, Wild:A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Vagabond Mother will be released by Wild Pressed books on 22nd January 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

About Tracey Scott-Townsend

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Tracey is the author of The Last Time We Saw MarionOf His BonesThe Eliza Doll and Another Rebecca. Her fifth novel, Sea Babies was released on 1st May 2019. Her novels have been described as both poetic and painterly. Her first poetry collection, So Fast was published in January 2018.

Tracey is also a visual artist. All her work is inspired by the emotions of her own experiences and perceptions.

Tracey is the mother of four grown-up children and now spends a lot of time travelling in a small camper van with husband Phil and their rescue dogs, Pixie and Luna, gathering her thoughts and writing them down.

You can find out more about Tracey by visiting her website, finding her on Facebook and following her on Twitter @authortrace.

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Vagabond Mother