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Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World Hardcover – May 1, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing; 1 edition (May 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620878003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620878002
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

If racing from Beijing (Peking) to Paris in an antique automobile sounds like a nightmare to you, then Bennett will be the perfect guide. Where travel memoirists tend toward the intrepid adventurer, Bennett is another sort altogether. She gets car sick. She stresses about having to read a map. She surveys her fellow racers with the emotional maturity of a high-schooler, desperately wanting to be part of the “cool crowd.” At times, she’s every bit as annoying as anyone would be after spending day after mind-numbing day riding in a perpetually broken-down car across relentlessly not-at-all-scenic terrain. If the reader, like Bennett, expects to encounter colorful characters along the way, she will, like Bennett, be disappointed to learn that she actually spends a disproportionate amount of time in auto-repair shops. But, ultimately, the race accomplishes what Bennett had hoped: she grows closer to her husband, Bernard, as they become completely dependent on each other in their two-person bubble. She even discovers a love of the road, proving it’s all about the journey, not the destination. --Patty Wetli


Selected as one of the top ten travel books for Spring 2013. (Publishers Weekly)

Readers are giving a five-star rating:
"Funny, scary and highly entertaining."
"...[T]his intrepid traveler... exposes her emotional self with raw honesty."
"I loved this book..." 
"[A] travel memoir that truly captures the stomach-twisting anxiety and elevating high of going on a trip."

“Selected as a top 10 Travel Book of Spring 2013 by Publishers Weekly.”

“Her [Bennett’s] writing captures the beauty of the austere landscape, changing social dynamics with other teams and the nuances of her shifting relationship with her husband. A fun ride, worth the trip.” (Kirkus Reviews)

More About the Author

Dina Bennett was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1955, to a French mother, an Austrian father and immediately attentive older sister. The new foursome soon left the city for a house in the suburbs, with a garden large enough for the budding tomboy to run around. Her parents made sure weekends were spent on hiking trails or ski slopes; Dina took to these activities like a duck to water, thrilled to have the chance to impress upon her tall, slender blonde older sister exactly who was tougher. The summers of her youth were spent in France, Switzerland and Italy, hopelessly comparing her moody self to her sunny, chic French cousins.

Her competitive spirit and generally anxious outlook on life continued at Pomona College, Claremont, California where she studied sociology; her nights were spent perfecting cribbage moves and breaking into the dining halls to satisfy post-midnight cravings.

Following graduation, she moved to Boulder, Colorado, worked for several cultural organizations, got her MBA and bided her time till her future husband, Bernard, arrived in town. He was French, which might have been a bad thing, but proved not to be. They married six months after meeting and have remained married despite the sad statistics depressing other baby boomers.

After several years with a Denver PR firm using her sense of humor and gift with words to promote major sports franchises, financial institutions and hospitality companies, she decided to join Bernard in his fledgling software localization company. Together they built and ran a dynamic and successful firm, proving you can love someone and still hate them when they disagree with you publicly in a business meeting. The business took all her energy for twelve years and required postponing the myriad trips that she had imagined the two would take together, eventually leaving Dina a fuming mess of delayed gratification.

On selling the firm at the turn of the millenium, Dina and Bernard moved to a rural cattle and hay ranch in the northern Colorado mountains. There, her dawn-till-dark lifestyle in the company of moose, tractors and horses, beaver pelts, barbed wire and elk carcasses, gave new meaning to the phrase, "not working anymore." Go to to read about her experiences adopting mustangs, loading hay trucks and building fences.

Dina has been untangling herself from barbed wire to join Bernard on extended road trips in far-off places for years now, seeking out the back roads and the off-map villages in yearly attempts to get themselves into deep vehicular trouble.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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I was sorry when the adventure was over and I look forward to another one in Dina's next book!
Amazon Customer
I nod." - Dina Bennett in PEKING TO PARIS, at the point she mentally buys into the P2P road rally "The scorecard lights up.
Joseph Haschka
An out-of-the-box travel book - one that lets us in on a world only a handful of people experience.
Jana Germano

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Rothstein VINE VOICE on July 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Dina Bennett's Peking to Paris tells the true tale of a road rally from (not surprisingly) Peking to Paris in classic cars. Dina and her French husband, Bernard, decide to leave their rural Colorado home and tackle the sometimes brutal journey in a 1940's roadster they dub Roxanne. Along the way, Dina must learn how to navigate through the Gobi desert, conquer motion sickness, and ultimately learn to love the long, sometimes harrowing stretches of utter nothingness as she, Bernard and Roxanne fight to make it to the finish line. Dina's travelogue has many charming moments, quirky characters, and drama. With all the supplemental material she provides (lists of parts and pieces they took with them, a full catalogue of the classic cars competing in the rally) it is frankly surprising that there is no MAP included to give readers a better sense of the route and terrain they needed to traverse. That simple omission is oddly indicative of a bigger issue with the book - Dina attempts to draw philosophical parallels between the journey and her life that unfortunately don't always work or feel authentic, and the net result is a book that feels more superficial than truly moving or insightful. That quibble aside, however, the journey is one well worth undertaking for the sheer insanity of the challenge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In a literary style that may remind some readers of a hilarious blend between Paul Theroux with Susan Gilman, Dina Bennett chronicles her unusual automotive odyssey across most of Eurasia in "Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World". I found her memoir as funny as Gilman's "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven", not merely because it, like Gilman's memoir, is set partly in China. Bennett describes herself as a less than courageous navigator, guiding her husband Bernard as he drives them in a vintage 1940 Cadillac LaSalle dubbed by her "Roxanne"; a car so fraught with mechanical difficulties that it almost seems miraculous that they complete the entire course of their Peking to Paris automobile rally. Much like Theroux, Bennett captivates readers with her vivid descriptions of the lands and peoples she encounters in her journey, though with far less solemnity than what I have read from Theroux in both his fiction and nonfiction. Some of the most memorable scenes occur in Mongolia, where she endures a sandstorm "facial treatment" and oppressively hot days and cold nights. Equally memorable is the leg of the journey through Russia, which strikes a very strong emotional chord with Bennett, as a descendant of Russian Jewish emigrants who arrived in the United States early in the 20th Century. Without question, "Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World" is a fine example of travel writing merged into memoir.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James R. Holland VINE VOICE on March 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The cover picture on this antique car rally memoir turned me off. It suggested this was going to be nothing more than a chick book. The picture also didn't include the actual blue 1940 Cadillac LaSalle (named Roxanne) that was in the race. The same cover suggested that the author of the book was some kind of debutant who was planning to drive the race in blue high heels, wearing a lacy black formal evening dress. She was also going take along all her pink and red matched luggage. In other words, the author either had no idea of what she was doing or she simply wasn't going to let the race cramp her social life.

The cover photo was obviously misleading and maybe it won't appear on the book's final edition. This review is based on an "uncorrected proof." Hopefully, the book will indeed have some photos of the author, her husband, their car Roxanne, and the race. The text cries out for something more than cutesy word pictures. That said, the book was actually interesting and did a pretty good over-all job of describing the historic re-enactment of the same 1907 Peking to Paris Car Race.

This book is written from an angle that is intended to be humorous by painting the author as a city girl used to all the modern creature comforts who even gets car sick on smooth roads. She is supposedly the fragile, helpless trip navigator who is going along on this car rally adventure because she feels it will strengthen her marriage. It's obviously intended to appeal to women more than the expected audience of car-loving males.

However rather than a ditsy, helpless city girl, the author claims to have grown up a real "Tom Boy" and at the time she and her husband signed up to take part in this car race, they had been living on a rural ranch in the Mountains of Northern Colorado.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jaylia3 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure if I'll ever drive from Beijing (Peking) to Paris, but now I want to. Dina Bennett chronicles the joys and tensions of being shut in an antique car for upwards of 7 hours a day during a 35 day road rally that stretched almost 8,000 miles across the width of Eurasia. She writes so convincingly I felt like I was there. One of her disappointments was that on that schedule there wasn't much time to see the sights or meet the locals--other than other rally participants most of the people she interacted with were auto mechanics and their wives--but Dina is still able to give a sense of place for the exotic locations she and her husband passed through on their adventure. She's also open about her self doubts and quirks, so this story is as much about personal growth and the trip's impact on her life and marriage as it is about travel. It's a pleasure to read and I hope Dina writes other books about her continuing exploits--see her website to find out what some of what she's been up to.
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