WITHOUT RESERVATIONS by Alice Steinbach

WITHOUT RESERVATIONS

The Travels of an Independent Woman

KIRKUS REVIEW

The travel memoir of a professional woman on a Grand Tour.

In 1993 Steinbach, Pulitzer-winning journalist and divorced mother, went on a nine-month sabbatical in Europe. "In this,

my Year of Living Dangerously, I was . . . wading into the stream of the unknown, accepting whatever the gods had to offer."

Her sojourn begins in the Faubourg-St. Germain during a Parisian spring, where she meets Naohiro, a Japanese widower in whom

she develops a romantic interest. In London for the summer, Steinbach meets a trio of women who become her nursemaids when

she falls ill; she befriends Jean, an Australian psychoanalyst, at Freud’s house and joins her for dinner with the smart set.

Steinbach enrolls in a late-summer course at Oxford, learns an important lesson about ballroom dancing from Barry, her

pot-bellied instructor, and wanders up and down the Italian peninsula, frequently turning to memories of Naohiro for emotional

sustenance and to the words of Freya Stark for spiritual guidance. If the adventure evolves without the higher risk of other kinds

of travel (and travel memoirs), and if the dramatic episodes primarily involve civilized exchanges with shop clerks and museum-

goers, Steinbach doesn’t make more of getting lost around Brasenose College or of hitting upon the perfect wedding gift for a

temporary friend than she can (or should); the book quickly loses its early sense of willed promise and gains a likable,

well-mannered modesty as it unfolds—the quiet, nothing-to-it triumph of getting from an unfamiliar airport to a distant hotel.

Not a major work, perhaps, but if a minor one, then well done. (color illustrations, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50188-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000




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