From Publishers Weekly
Steinbach had so much fun running off to Europe to find herself, as recounted in her first book (Without Reservations
), she decided to quit her job writing for the Baltimore Sun
and devote herself to similar educational adventures. Following the advice of Japanese poet Basho ("To learn of the pine, go to the pine"), Steinbach takes off again and recounts eight endeavors, including studying French cooking in Paris, attending a Jane Austen convention in England and meeting geishas in Kyoto. She captures the uniqueness of each setting, aided by a sharply curious sensibility she claims stems as much from her childhood admiration for Nancy Drew as from her reportorial training. That spirit of openness also enables her to strike up many spontaneous conversations easily, frequently launching other discoveries. A search for a bonsai garden in Florence, for example, winds up becoming a tour of several palaces normally closed to the public, which leads to an old priest's tale of rescuing priceless paintings from a flood. Yet for all Steinbach's attention to others, her account remains resolutely personal, as her experiences unleash bittersweet childhood memories, and an ambiguously romantic relationship with a Japanese gentleman is never far from her thoughts. Her stories are powerfully seductive to anyone who's ever been tempted to get up and go, following interests wherever they may lead. Even during the occasional setbacks, from language barriers to confusing geographies, Steinbach makes such a life look highly desirable.
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After winning the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, Steinbach transformed herself into a travel writer and gained a readership with Without Reservations
(2000). She now presents another blithe chronicle of sophisticated adventures as she returns to the humbling role of student in order to sample different creative pursuits. Steinbach goes to Paris to take cooking classes at the Hotel Ritz and to Kyoto, where she takes lessons in traditional arts and meets some truly remarkable women, including several geishas and an impressive entrepreneur. In England she makes pilgrimages to Jane Austen's residences, and in Havana she has some real fun, meeting artists and listening to great music. She tours private gardens in Provence, takes a writing workshop in Prague, and learns a bit about Border collies at a Scottish sheep farm. Attentive and receptive out in the world, on the page Steinbach is brisk, funny, confiding, and informative as she offers pithy observations, vivid profiles, and arcane facts. Experiencing her pleasurable sojourns vicariously, Steinbach's readers enjoy a virtual vacation from reality. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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