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Without Reservations: The Travels Of An Independent Woman
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2004
Having booked my first trip (with my loved one) to Paris I was recommended by a friend to read this book.
After raising her children on her own and carved out a successful career as a Journalist Alice Steinbach realises that she is wanting to find who she really is and not just someones mother or employee.
Alice decides to embark on a contemporary "Grand Tour" stopping off in Paris, London, Oxford, and Italy ( Venice, Florence etc.)
The tales of her life whilst living in these european cities is funny, heartwarming and thought provoking.
Alice has a wonderful ability to create images with her words and really brings places to life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, light and maybe rambling in places but never the less an absorbing read about someones journey in this life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2001
This is a beautiful book. Its presentation makes it a pleasure to look at and the language of description is a delight to the mind. It tells of the travels of Steinbach. Divorced, and with her two sons grown up, she decides to take a six month sabbatical from her work as a journalist in the USA. Her aim is to discover who she is, away from family, work and daily life. At the same time she plans to discover various cities: Paris, London, Oxford, Milan and Venice.
As she travels the book provides an insight into these places and into the character of Steinbach herself. There is also a view of the lives of the people she meets along the way, not least the Japanese gentleman who comes to play such an important role. A combination of personal journal of self discovery and travel guide, the book will delight anyone who enjoys the simple pleasure of people watching.
Almost poetic in some of her descriptions, the book itself is beautifully presented with postcards Steinbach sent home to herself. The text is also interspersed with stamps of the countries visited.
This is not a book with a story where something specific happens, and yet each day we read of all that does happen. We join Steinbach on her travels, seeing what she sees, taking a coffee with her in a Parisian square, enjoying a bowl of pasta in an Italian village; we see people and places through her eyes and just as she learns much about herself during her travels, so we are challenged to do the same.
Whether you enjoy travel writing or people watching, autobiography or poetry, read this!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2001
Alice Steinbach's "Without Reservations" is a beautifully written book dealing with the twin notions of travel and memoir.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with The Baltimore Sun newspaper, Steinbach writes of the year she left her daily routines behind and traveled to Europe. No agenda, no plans, no real reservations. Interspersed with postcards the author wrote to herself (to remind her of the revelations and experiences), the author writes of a type of spiritual as well as professional journey.
The title, Without Reservations, is a play on words. For while the book is ostensibly a travel piece, it is also incredibly candid and forthright.
This is a book for anyone seeking to rediscover their memories, evaluate their choices, give context and meaning to their lives. It's beautifully written and powerfully insightful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2013
A couple of months ago I saw a review of this book over at Captive Reader and immediately requested the book from my local library. A few weeks ago it arrived and about a week ago I started the book.

Alice Steinbach, an American reporter, divorced with two adult sons makes the decision to take a sabbatical from her job and travel. Her travelling is confined within this book to Paris, London, Oxford and Italy.

Whilst this is not so much a travelogue, it is written in a gentle style and is very much conversational. Alice has a wonderful ability to make friends with strangers and very much embraces the opportunity she has taken to reaffirm her position and life.

Whilst in London, Alice visited the Gertrude Jekyll exhibition that was held in London at the Museum of Garden History. By coincidence I visited the same exhibition, as Gertrude Jekyll is responsible for the gardens at one of my ancestral houses in rural Surrey.

I simply loved this book. The way that Alice was having a conversation with her readers. I loved that she sent herself postcards whilst she was solo travelling and maintained a journal through the experience.

It reminded me of the solo travelling I did in my early 20's and the people that I met along the way and spent time with. Several of those people I am still in touch with, others have fallen by the wayside and yet remain entwined with my travels. It was those travels that probably defined and shaped me in adulthood.

About a third of the way through the book I found that I need a note pad as a few thoughts and book titles came to mind. I found that I wanted to know more about her travels and did she keep in touch with anyone she met on her journey, and what happened to her relationship with Naohiro?

As I sat to write this review I decided to see what other books Alice had written, I was very sad to see that Alice passed away in March 2012 and I felt a real sadness for someone I had never met or corresponded with, yet we had made a connection through her writing.
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I think I'm too cynical for books like this. I think I like the idea of them more than I like the reality. The basic premise - middle-aged divorced mother of two suffering from empty-nest-syndrome drops out of her life to travel around Europe alone and 'find herself' - is so overdone, so clichéd, that I almost found myself rolling my eyes on every page.

I found it an enjoyable enough read, don't get me wrong - it's always entertaining to see familiar places through others' eyes, and Steinbach is a lively, engaging writer - but I didn't find it inspiring or motivating, powerful or insightful. Taking six months' out to visit three countries, stay in fine hotels and eat out in restaurants and cafes for every meal is, to me at least, hardly bold or daring, hardly a radical change of life. It's basically the extended holiday we'd all love to take.

Her depictions of Paris, London, Oxford, Venice and Rome may seem exotic to those who have never visited them, but her stereotypical, idealised depictions bear little resemblance to the places I've visited. Every alley is a hidden gem of cobblestones and unique boutiques; all the women are chic and elegant, the men handsome and interesting; the food is always good, the wine excellent, the art and history inspiring, the company apparently immediately friendly and engaging. If only we could all move through life like this!

I feel churlish writing like this - Steinbach clearly found in her travels what she was looking for, and who am I to denigrate someone else's experience? But reading this book it all felt a little too good to be true, a little too air-brushed and white-washed to be credible.
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on 11 March 2001
Alice Steinbach's 'Without Reservations' is one of my favourites, although a very recent read. It searches for the answer to Steinbach's question 'who am I?' while portraying the most beautiful scenes in Paris, London, Oxford, and Italy. I love the inclusion of the postcards pictures and messages at the beginning of each chapter, and the detail with which her favourite places are depicted. Above all, this book increased my incentive to travel and to one day live in Paris. I found myself reading this book again with a pen and paper, jotting down the places mentioned on a list entitled 'must visit!'. I think Steinbach's explorations of her own life, past and future added to the sense of place within the book - the way a different setting can make you reminisce in such a way - as well as making you feel you know Steinbach personally. I had expected the fact that the author was much older than me - taking this trip when her sons had grown and left home - to remove any chance of me identifying with her. This wasn't the case at all. I found myself admiring her for the way in which she could so easily make friends with people she had only just met. This is one of those books I'll read again and again, and I would certainly recommend it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2001
I enjoyed travelling with Alice Steinbach through the pages of this book to Paris, London, Oxford and Italy. Her travel journal is informative and entertaining, as are her accounts of her reasons for travelling and of the obstacles an independent woman in her fifties faces in travelling alone.
Steinbach's style of writing is fluid and clear but not particularly dazzling. Nor is it especially insightful.
I liked the clever title of this book and most of its contents, even if the story ended disappointingly. There was a need for greater closure and summing up after this little adventure - not just a few wafty lines near the journey's end at the airport in Venice! I was curious too, as to how a newspaper reporter could afford such a trip, but there was no reference to her financing.
A nice read.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2001
Alice Steinbach seems to believe that she's taken her life into her hands by taking 6 months out to live on the edge; 4 star hotels in Paris, a flat in Chelsea and with an American tour group through Italy. Putting that aside and accepting that this could indeed be taking risks for a middle aged single American lady then take a look at what she has to say about her travels. Is it witty or incisive? Do we get a real insight in to the charaters she meets on her travels or a route of self discovery? No we get a superficial gloss on Alice's views of people and locations. Steinbach uses 'postcards' throughout the book and the book as a whole comes across as a long postcard with about as much depth as your Auntie Hilda would write.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2013
I really enjoyed this book, you really feel as if you are travelling with her. The only thing that I found annoying was the poor ending to the book. There was no mention of what happened to her relationship with Naohiro, did they part company? What happened afterwards? There is no closure. This book really needed an Epilogue.

Also I was astounded that she could be invited to so many parties and on so many day trips in London and Paris by complete strangers, just by chance meetings in cafes and bars. Would that happen now, including three newly made aquainances nursing her round the clock for days when she got ill?

I would like to read her other book Educating Alice, published in 2005. Perhaps she answers some of the questions there.
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on 22 February 2015
Loved it.
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