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The Girl's Guide to Traveling Solo
ISBN: 141200433-0
By Deanna G. Wolff
Review by: Sandra Tarling

5/15/04

If you're looking for a book for the beach or pool side, and your idea of light reading is something akin to Bridget Jones goes to Italy, then perhaps you'll enjoy Deanna Wolff's The Girl's Guide to Traveling Solo. In her "true story," she enthusiastically describes her two-week trip to Italy, which consists primarily of drinking, eating, and young singles carousing reminiscent of a college spring break trip. Except, the author relating her experiences is a 36-year-old woman.

Wolff begins her journey with a short description of herself, her cat Spencer, and her preparations for the trip. She then proceeds to the airport, boards the plane and ends up next to a "gorgeous" married Italian man with whom she shares her half liter bottle of wine plus "four or five of those little bottles . . . each." Wolff's destination is Milan with a transfer to Bologna, ending by train in Rimini where she plans to stay a week with her friend, Letizia, and her family. Needless to say, even though Letizia and her friends party pretty hard, Wolff decides a week is too long in Rimini, so she heads south to Capri where she meets Silvio, a younger Italian man. With little hesitation, Wolff goes home with Silvio and stays with him for her three remaining days on Capri. On the fourth day, she departs for Rome, with no lingering thoughts of Silvio, where she stays at a youth hostel and spends her days exploring the typical tourist sites.

This travel memoir has great potential for some real humorous moments. In addition to the usual “culture clash” moments that arise when traveling, Wolff is a thirty-six-year-old single woman who primarily encounters other single people younger than herself. Unfortunately, the author does not open up her perspective sufficiently to mine these comedic opportunities when they arise. She remains too embedded in her solipsistic view -- the situation or other person is too often the only thing that's funny.

The book is written informally, as if a good friend were recounting her trip, step by step. And the description of Wolff's daily events does become tedious because the writing never fully comes to life. Too often, Wolff resorts to overused descriptive words such as "a magical and intriguing place. Beautiful, yet not overbearing. Mysterious, yet not complex. Soothing, yet not subdued." Very little concrete or specific description is provided, so scenes and places remain vague in the reader's mind, and it often reads as if it were written for a travel guide. Stylistically, casual speech is conveyed by the occasional use of "ya" for you, and the Italians' English speech is stereotypically presented: "We donna do dees inna Italia. Eesa wrong." Enthusiasm or any other emotion is expressed through extensive use of the exclamation point, which occurs on nearly every page and often three or four times.

If you don't mind these weaknesses in the writing itself, and you want an easy reading book about a young woman traveling for two weeks in Italy, then you'll enjoy The Girl's Guide to Traveling Solo. Just don't expect too much beyond indulging in an informal, general description of a trip to Italy, as told by someone who sounds like your best college friend when the two of you were still in college and partying hard.




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