Most helpful critical review
All feels a little too good to be true...
on 3 October 2014
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.