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Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious…
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Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman

by Alice Steinbach

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Showing 5 of 5
What I should probably say, right away, is that I found the book immensely readable. I spent a couple of weeks reading this, during a time when health complications often left me tired, listless, and easy to distract. I would huddle up with the book for fifteen or thirty-minute sessions, sometimes clearing a chapter in as many as four or five installments. That's not a criticism; Steinbach's prose was inviting and easy to read, and it didn't put any stress on me as the reader. It was a perfect recuperative read.

If I had to get more critical, I might say that Steinbach's "adventures" start to blend together after a while. They generally follow a set pattern: Steinbach arrives in a new location prior to an educational tour, seminar or conference she plans to attend; she uses her journalistic skills and her innate curiosity to delve into the less-touristy areas; she makes friends with a local woman or a fellow female tourist (or both). The details are different enough in every case that, especially when read in small segments, the repetition doesn't really matter. You, the reader, are along for a lackadaisical tour through Alice Steinbach's life; there's no pressure, no timetable, nor really even a goal. The aim is just to enjoy yourself as the author satisfies her curiosity. (There is a very loose attempt at a recurring epistolary romance throughout the book, but while the letters are charming, they never really amount to much, and it's a little bit of a mystery why they're ultimately included.)

I don't know why Steinbach's memoir wasn't fashioned into something just a bit more of a, well, narrative; perhaps she was aiming for a Sunday afternoon read, and if so, that's pretty much what she got. It's a terribly pleasant little volume, perfect for reading in the garden. Just don't expect any grand revelations. ( )
  saroz | Dec 22, 2015 |
I want to be Alice Steinbach. I want to travel around the world. I want to stop here and there and take classes in things that interest me. I want to go to Paris and take a cooking class. I want to go to Italy and study art. I want to visit England and learn more about Jane Austen. And then I want to come home and write a book---this one---about my adventures during this world tour.
No, my life is too busy right now for me to be Alice Steinbach and travel the world and take classes. Luckily, however, I had enough time to spend the weekend reading her book and vicariously traveling and learning with her.
1 vote debnance | Sep 2, 2012 |
I found this September read for my book club mildly interesting with a few annoyances. Perhaps the teacher in me came on too strong, but I think the “adventures” she recounts were more an excuse for paid vacations and free travel than learning things as she proclaimed in her preface. Steinbach had an idea for a book, and convinced the publisher to bankroll these trips. If not, she got in a lot of traveling on the tax payer's dime. After all, how much could she learn arriving halfway through an eight-week course on cooking in Paris – missing all the basics – and then leaving a week before the class concluded? The trip to Havana was another example. She went there to study the art and architecture of Cuba, but spent most of her time in clubs and bars dancing and listening to local musicians.

Not that the book is entirely without merit. I loved the chapter on her visit to Winchester and a gathering of aficionados of Jane Austen. She really did learn something, and so did I. Even this adventure had a minor annoyance. She proclaimed she loved Austen, whom she had read since she was twelve. Then she frets about matching Emma with Mr. Darcy – too big a mistake for anyone who read Austen more than once to make! She did become adept and turning away questions about arcane details in Austen’s novels.

If I had never visited Florence, Italy, her chapter on this magnificent city would have done nothing to make me start planning a trip there.

Another chapter I really enjoyed was the adventure set in Prague. Mostly this one revolved around Czech literature and writers. I also got a tip on an interesting novel, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal. This novel is one long sentence. I also picked up some ideas for exercises in my creative writing class.

Her relationship with a Japanese man also intruded a bit too much into the story for my tastes. Not only did he show up twice, but she felt compelled to include letters updating him on her adventures, as well as some comments which hinted that the relationship was more than mere pen pals.

If I were reading this book on my own, I would have skipped some of the chapters after a couple of pages. But, since my book club was reading it, I felt I should slog through. The opinion of the club members seemed decidedly mixed. (3 stars)

--Jim, 10/3/10 ( )
  rmckeown | Oct 3, 2010 |
An interesting read if only for the variety of activities undertaken. The romantic interest sideline can be a little bitty at times, but does provide an anchor through each of the sections. One of the best things about this book is that the reader gains the same insights along with the author.
(September 2007) ( )
  Tselja | Jun 16, 2010 |
Alice chronicles roaming the world taking lessons in courses in such things as French cooking in Paris, Border collie training in Scotland, traditional Japanesse arts in Kyoto, architecture and art in Havana. She guides us through the pleasures and perils of discovering how to be a student again. She also learns the true value of this second chance at educating herself: the opportunity to connect with and learn from the people she meets along the way. ( )
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1 vote | marient | Nov 23, 2008 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Epigraph
To learn of the pine, go to the pine.
- - MATSUO BASHO (1644-1694)
Dedication
This book is for Irvin Steinbach and for Maggie Thompson Dundas, in memory
First words
A light snow was falling as I left my hotel and hurried across the narrow Rue Cambon to the employees' entrance of the Hotel Ritz.
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Hearing, seeing, feeling familiar things in a new way is part of the glorious alchemy of travel.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812973607, Paperback)

This funny and tender book combines three of Alice Steinbach’s greatest passions: learning, traveling, and writing. After chronicling her European journey of self-discovery in Without Reservations, this Pulitzer Prize—winning columnist for the Baltimore Sun quit her job and left home again. This time she roamed the world, taking lessons and courses in such things as French cooking in Paris, Border collie training in Scotland, traditional Japanese arts in Kyoto, and architecture and art in Havana. With warmth and wit, Steinbach guides us through the pleasures and perils of discovering how to be a student again. She also learns the true value of this second chance at educating herself: the opportunity to connect with and learn from the people she meets along the way.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:57 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Alice Steinbach decided to take a year off to explore Europe and rediscover what it was like to be an independent woman, she left her job, family, friends and routine behind. The result, WITHOUT RESERVATIONS, became a bestseller and inspired women everywhere to take that leap, if not in reality, at least in their imaginations.But having opened the door to a new way of living, Steinbach found herself unwilling to return to the old routine. She quit her job and left home again, only this time her objective was to find a way to combine three of her greatest passions: travelling, writing and learning. EDUCATING ALICE is the intimate, funny and richly entertaining story of her adventures roaming the world to conquer new challenges, large and small. She learns how to cook at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, tackles the intricacies of traditional Japanese arts in Kyoto, makes a pilgrimage to Jane Austen's birthplace, revisits the past in Prague, surrenders to the spontaneous joy of music and memories in Havana, uncovers the secrets of border collie training in Scotland, and much, much more. Along the way, Steinbach learns more from the people she connects with on her travels and unplanned encounters than any of her lessons.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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