Women Travelers: A Century of Trailblazing Adventures by Alexandra Lapierre and Christel Mouchard is the type of book I call bedtime reading. By that I mean that the chapters are short and self-contained, there are no cliff-hanging plot lines and nothing to disturb your impending sleep. That’s not to say the book is a snore-fest; I’m just saying that it is merely entertaining, and once I got into the book I knew that I’d be giving twenty minutes to the life of each adventuress (a word not allowed in the book) and then I could either stop or move on to the next woman.
The book, originally published in French, is arranged in a roughly chronological fashion, from Catalina de Erauso of Spain in the 17th century to Emily Hahn who died in 1997. Some of the women profiled, such as Nelly Bly and Karen Blixen, are very well-known, while others, such as Marianne North, are more obscure. In almost every case, I was left wanting to know more about the woman being written about. Only so much can be revealed in the six or eight pages allotted to each woman.
I enjoyed this book, but I probably would not buy it after having read it. First, why is it that books today have to be so huge? The size and weight of it made it hard to balance while reclining. I know that is a silly reason to dislike a book, but it just seems like a lot of the heft could be eliminated and make it a bit more bed-friendly.
But the main problem was that ultimately, these very short profiles were just not satisfying. I had just finished the biography of Emily Hahn a few months ago, and so her story was very fresh in my mind. I just felt like her story was just too rich to be summarized in six pages of text and photos.
Still, the book was entertaining, and a few years from now I’ll probably pull it off my shelf and read it again. Or maybe I’ll think of the women travelers and decide to learn more by reading a proper biography.