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Barbed Wire & Babushkas: A River Odyssey Across Siberia Paperback – 6 Jan 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (6 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753509385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753509388
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 611,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A great adventure and a very entertaining read' -- Sir Ranulph Fiennes

'Creates a feeling of escape and mischief of which Jerome K Jerome himself would have been proud' -- Times Literary Supplement

'Definitely one not to miss' -- Wanderlust

'Peppered with amusing anecdotes - Grogan’s humorous and understated style draws the reader into the journey' -- Geographical magazine

'Wonderfully entertaining - the most important account of Russian life since Colin Thubron’s In Siberia' -- Ottakars

From the Back Cover

Victor was clearly concerned about our plans to travel along the border, promising that the guards would shoot us on sight: 'They will be made heroes, with medals from Moscow,' he thundered, slapping his chest, ' but you will be dead!' And with that, he moulded his hands around an imaginary machine gun and sprayed our chests with an impressive salvo of spittle. For years they'd dreamed of packing in their day-jobs and travelling one of the world's greatest rivers, so long as it was somewhere warm. Siberia seemed like the obvious choice... Starting from high in the mountains of northern Mongolia, Paul Grogan and travelling companion Richard Boddington set out to make the first source-to-sea descent of Siberia's 4,400km Amur River, known in China as The Black Dragon. After wading up-stream for five days to reach the source, they begin their epic, four-month journey knowing virtually nothing about the region they'll be travelling through, or even where they'll be able to find food along the way. One of the few things they do know about the river is that for almost 2,000km if forms the long-disputed border between Russia and China. the scene of armed conflict up until the late 1980's, it's still considered off-limits, even to Russians. Never sure if they'll be able to continue around the next bend, the pair face guns, gunboats and arrest at every turn, and are forbidden to even set foot in Chinese territory. But beyond this fascade of military might they find a generous, warm-hearted people with a wicked sense of humour and an unhealthy predilection fir poetry, pig fat and home-made vodka. With sun, sauna's and dancing girls also high on the agenda, they are soon swept along by life on the river and the occasional 4 a.m. flood.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Louis on 13 May 2010
Format: Paperback
Instead of the evoking of romantic ideals readers of Ranulf Fiennes and other "Wilderness Explorers" will hope for, this book laughingly brushes them aside with a relaxed and realistic view of the "Wildernesses" that us English imagine. None of the -40c horror stories or the "although i came here to experience remoteness all i crave is company" rubbish that is still alarmingly published, this gives you a brilliant account of what these areas of the world us westerners do not know much about are like. If anything, this social and political history held in this fascinating part of the world can only attract one more to it. Thankyou for this easy reading companion to my otherwise monotonous days of finishing my degree. I will hope to meet your subject soon
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "sandramoylan" on 31 July 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm wondering if John from Salisbury has been reading the same book as the rest of us? I bought this little gem on the basis of the other favourable reviews and found it both enthralling and entertaining. The author manages to write with eloquence and humour about a region relatively untouched by tourism, giving a fascinating insight into its people and culture. Bill Bryson-esque with perhaps a more youthful and gritty edge, Sir Ranulph Fiennes' endorsement seems to sum up this book perfectly. It will appeal not just to fans of travel writing but anyone who enjoys a good read, and certainly no-one I have lent it to subsequently has been able to put it down. If the aim of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is to help travellers "gain a better understanding the lives and cultures of people overseas", then all credit to the author for taking this ethos one step further and sharing his insights so generously and articulately with the rest of us.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rob on 18 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
Paul Grogan has written an informative and funny book which is not really about canoeing (although canoes do get a mention) but about exploring a number of very different cultures, and about the way that complete strangers react to meeting two English explorers who have no particular reason to be in their midst. Part Bryson, part FHM, with a liberal sprinkling of Professor Winston along the way, Paul's recollections of encounters with everyone from beaurocrats armed with AK47s to Russian poledancers kept me turning the pages.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Clark on 8 April 2005
Format: Paperback
An excellent book suitable for any reader. A friend, who saw the author talk at Stamford's bookstore in London, recommended it to me. Well-written and amusing on every page, Paul captures the pace of life on the river, along with the generosity and kindness of the people he meets. Interesting to see how he is received by the Russian military, sometimes with that same generosity, sometimes with indifference, sometimes with hostility - it's not known what's round the next bend. I enjoyed this book, as did my mother! It will leave you wanting to pack up your job and fulfil that long held dream.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. R. P. Bartlett-ward on 16 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
A superbly written adventure, by a very talented young writer who kept me not only interested, but often amazed and amused, compelling me to keep turning the pages in order to dicover the outcome of these two intrepid travellers. A thoroughly recommended read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ash on 4 May 2005
Format: Paperback
Once I picked up this book, I could not put it down and in fact, read it in one evening. Grogan's account of canoeing down the Black Dragon (or Amur to the Russians) river is a hilarious tale, which I would recommend to any reader who loves travel writing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Mar 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is inspired - had me laughing out loud! It was as if I shared the experiences with Paul and Rich, apart from the blisters, sore muscles, and weather! A great read that will inspire you to go an an adventure of your own.
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