cover image Fifty Years of Europe: An Album

Fifty Years of Europe: An Album

Jan Morris. Villard Books, $24 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41610-4

Morris has led such a varied life and traveled so widely that this collection, which she calls an ""album,"" brims with extraordinary associations, byte-sized sidelights on places and history, and stimulating opinions. The Anglo-Welsh author of more than 30 books on diverse subjects draws on her background as a war correspondent, editor of an underground newspaper and finalist for the Booker Prize. Morris has climbed Everest, trekked the Arabian desert and, not least, underwent sex-change surgery 25 years ago. Almost any subject fires ruminations both erudite and personal. She mulls over the ever-evolving characteristics of the English, French culture, the relationship between religion and art, the difficulties of creating a united Europe, the railways on the continent and much more, all of it entertaining, thought-provoking and richly rewarding. The five chapters have unrevealing titles and within each, Morris's ruminations range randomly. Similar topics pop up again and again, and there seems to be no particular organization. Readers will have an interesting ride, but from one turn in the road to the next will hardly know where they're headed. (Nov.)