Top critical review
on 2 October 2006
This book is a little of everything and not much of anything. Above all, it is a recipe book (you will find 8 recipes for bug-shaped foods to be served at children's parties - gummy candy creepy-crawlies in jellies, anyone?). The author also explains how to arrange flowers (and what to do if they droop), make centerpieces, fold napkins, remove various kinds of stains (dog puddles!), provides information on wedding superstitions and names of wedding anniversaries, aphrodisiac foods, as well as flowers and their meanings. There are snippets of information on various royal mansions, selected royal family customs, and some memories of the late Princess Diana . The information on etiquette is scarce and fragmentary. This book is by no means an exhaustive source of knowledge of the finer points of etiquette/table manners, although the author does provide some tips on how to eat 'difficult foods,'serve wine and compose wedding invitations, along with very basic information on 'general civilization' (don't smoke around non-smokers, pick your teeth or talk with your mouth full). If you have your own back yard and live in a cold climate, you may appreciate Paul Burrell's tip on the effects of hanging your table linen out in heavy frost overnight.
Some of the information the author provides will strike you as odd: "I have served brandy in glasses as large as goldfish bowls - these are excellent for the brandy (...)" Are they? "At the end of the meal, ladies may want to apply a little powder or lipstick. It is appropriate to do this at the table (...)" Is it??? Paul Burrell mentions a reception where champagne was served in tiny bottles, with a straw - he believes this to be "a novel and very stylish way to serve the drink, and so simply executed". Oh, well...
I have not learned much from this book and found it lacking in focus.
If you are interested in table manners, I recommend the exquisite "The Art of the Table" by Suzanne von Drachenfels.