THE JOURNEY: An Autobiography by Cecilia Steinberg

THE JOURNEY: An Autobiography

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With the help of her lover, US Ambassador Lawrence Steinhardt, the Countess, her young daughter, and her husband Leopold slipped out of Czechoslovakia in 1948. This profuse, animated memoir describes the tragicomic failures that followed in American exile. Cecilia earns no money from her ceramic portraits of society figures; has to sell her silly Pennsylvania farm when the Ambassador is killed in a plane crash and his wife demands instant repayment of a secret loan; leaves a cottage on Eugene Rothachild's estate for a will-of-the-wisp business venture in Florida; and ends up managing a Jamaican guest house. The chronicle is interspersed with skillful, long-winded flashbacks: nÉe Reventlow, Cecilia married at 17 into one of the Hapsburg Empire's most ancient families, and between the hardships of WW I and WW II never saw a kitchen or knew the price of anything she bought. Friends and family, above all cousin Eddie von Bismarck, are sketched with matter-of-fact earthiness (an old princess advised her to deal with feminine rivals by snubbing, befriending, or seducing them, but nothing worked against Leopold's petit-bourgeois mistress), while Cecilia's passion for Steinhardt does not forbid cutting remarks about both him and his wife. Cecilia describes herself as a manipulative gamine, and her writing makes Tatiana Metternich's Purgatory of Fools (p. 523) pallid by comparison. Self-centered but rarely solipsistic and preachy like Tatiana--whom it is impossible to imagine selling jewelry across from a gas station in St. Petersburg--Cecilia has reconstructed a fine gossipy panorama, as strong and tart as Slivovitz.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Dial