Lize's Reviews > Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach
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's review
Mar 04, 11

bookshelves: 2011, journeywomen
Read from February 17 to March 04, 2011

This one all but leapt into my arms as I walked through the 900 section of the library on a gloomy February day. "You need me!" it said. Did I ever.

I had really enjoyed Ms. Steinbach's "Educating Alice" a few years ago, and this was equally delightful--an account of her year away from her Baltimore journalist job spent in Paris, London, Oxford, and Italy. I've long thought Ms. Steinbach and I would get along famously. We travel much the same way: architectural marvels and museums, yes, but also wandering the streets where the locals live, exploring bookstores, galleries and old cemeteries, and people watching (and occasionally eavesdropping) in cafes. And I too would have jumped at the chance to visit an exhibition of WWII-era love letters at the Imperial War Museum. Her writing is gorgeous, but accessible, and I love how she can find the beauty and soul in the most ordinary things:

"As I stood beneath a street light studying the map, a woman turned the corner and headed for one of the houses. She unlocked the door; a circle of light spilled out. I could see through the door the warm glow of lamps and pictures lining the pale yellow walls. An orange-and-white cat, back arched, tail plumed up into the air, suddently appeared to greet her, rubbing up against her legs. The woman bent to stroke the top of his head; the cat leaned in to her caress. "Did you miss me?" I heard her ask in a voice flushed with affection."

In just a few pages I left a particularly bitter New England winter and a patch of major depression behind for a walk in the sunny streets of Paris. Some books find us at just the right time. That's certainly true of this one.
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Reading Progress

02/24/2011 page 12
4.0% ""But those who work in hotels are not unused to seeing people at their worst. After all, the word 'travel' comes from the Latin 'trepalium'. Which, loosely translated, means 'instrument of torture.' So whatever judgmental thoughts may have passed through the mind of the receptionist, she tactfully kept them from appearing on her face.""
02/27/2011 page 86
29.0% "London. She's talking about the portrait of the Bronte sisters in the National Portrait Gallery. I remember it. "It is one of the strongest bonds, I think, that can spring up between people: sharing a passion for certain books and their authors."" 1 comment
02/28/2011 page 115
39.0% "Now Alice is at an exhibition of love letters at the Imperial War Museum. I LOVE this book."
03/02/2011 page 190
64.0% "Italy. Milan, to be exact. When they still had lire."
03/03/2011 page 247
84.0% "I'll finish this today, and will feel as though I've lost my best friend." 1 comment
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