A Dutch-born woman’s memoir about how she stumbled into an unexpected career as a globe-trotting photojournalist.
Molenaar’s fascination with faraway places began when she was a child. But her early years in Rotterdam were nothing like the magical worlds that populated her daydreams. She felt alienated from her family, as though she was always “slightly in the wrong.” When World War II intervened, Germany occupied Holland, creating hardship and misery for all Dutch citizens. After the war, a traumatized Molenaar left for Switzerland. In between her first marriage and divorce, she discovered photography. It was only after she met, married and began working alongside distinguished magazine journalist Frederic Grunfeld, however, that she was able to transform her love for travel and image-making into a way of life she “had not dared to imagine since childhood.” They made the Spanish island of Mallorca their home and hobnobbed with the likes of Robert Graves, John Cheever and Anthony Burgess. In the meantime, joint assignments took them to locations all over the world, including Alaska, Afghanistan and India. But as Molenaar grew into her profession, and into her husband’s equal, the marriage collapsed, and she found herself forced to make a living to support herself and her children. The author’s career blossomed, and soon, she was going on shoots in such exotic locales as Brazil, Tanzania and Mongolia. Between adventures, she married again and moved to France, where she made acquaintances with Joseph Heller and Lawrence Durrell. She was unable to disobey the “inner summons” to adventure, and she grew apart from her husband and divorced. That Molenaar has led a challenging but privileged life is clear. Her narrative, however, is a structurally undisciplined hodgepodge of memories, anecdotes and travelogue that is more likely to irk readers than engage them.
Self-indulgent and only occasionally interesting.