Friday, May 4, 2012

Traveling Between the Lines: Europe in 1938 / Rebecca McBride

Reviewed by: SingleEyePhotos

Genre: Travel/History/Nonfiction

Approximate word count: 45-50,000

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Rebecca McBride gained a love of travel from her parents who, as this book shows, loved to travel themselves. She is a freelance writer and editor, who has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. For more, visit her website.


In the summer of 1938, the author’s parents traveled throughout Western Europe on a shoestring budget.  After their deaths, she found 4 notebooks that contained her father’s diary from this trip. Reading his diary, she found herself learning more about her parents as a young couple and about Europe immediately before the start of WWII – people very different from the parents she knew, and a world very different from the one that emerged from the war.


The majority of this book is a transcription of the author’s father’s diaries from the trip. The concise, day-by-day description of their travels brings a sense of immediacy to the writing – you feel like you know the writer (John) and his wife (Margaret) and are traveling with them.  The author did considerable research into pre-war Europe (especially on the Continent, but including England and Wales as well) in her effort to understand the social and political climate in which her parents were travelling.  She intersperses her own commentary throughout the book, providing details on things that John and Margaret took for granted, but which might not be as familiar to the modern reader.  Since this book is also her way of getting to know her (young) parents better, she asks many questions of her father – what were they thinking at the time, why they did something, how they felt about an event.  The questions do not detract from the flow of the book, and serve to highlight the fact that it is a very personal story.  The historical commentary is brief and to the point, and serves its purpose well.

It is inevitable, because of the timeframe the book covers, that there are a lot of questions – mostly left unanswered – about the political situation in Germany.  At the time, the Nazis had already seized power and were starting to push their agenda.  Austria had been annexed.  A kristalnacht had occurred in many major cities.  Jews were finding themselves under more and more restrictions.  Military presence could be seen on the streets.  Anglophobia was becoming noticeable.  Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement was taking its toll. The burning questions that the author had for her parents was how much they knew about what was really going on in Germany.  How much did they know before they left the United States?  What did they learn while travelling?  Was their decision to spend a good amount of time in Germany made because they truly felt there was no danger or were they being naïve? There are no answers – and the author realizes that, but understands that the questions themselves must still be asked.

Format/Typo Issues:

None. Formatting for the Kindle edition was excellent.  There were many images of old photographs (taken during the trip) along with captions included in the book.  The quality of the images wasn’t as good as I would have liked, but there’s no way of knowing what the quality of the original prints was.  I read this on a Kindle DX, and there were occasions when the caption for the picture was on the next page.

Rating: **** 4 stars


Lillian Archer said...

This seems like a wonderful book! Cant wait to read it. Thank you for all the hard work you do reviewing for others.

Anonymous said...

I can't help thinking that transcribing and writing this travel diary was a bitter-sweet experience for McBride. My hat's off to her for sharing such a personal account with strangers such as we.

I agree with Lillian. I'm off to sample the book and then probably buy it.

rebeccam said...

Al, thank you for the review. I appreciate it. The quality of the original black and white prints is wonderful, and when they're shown on a screen (digitally), they are amazing. I'll see what I can do to improve the quality in the Kindle book.


Becky said...

I recently read a similar type of book, "Drifting on a Headwind" by Jim Harlan. The book is a memoir of the author's life as he travels through some of the most remote areas of the world. It was a truly inspiring book, and I am sure Rebecca McBride's is- can't wait to check it out!