Paul Brummell, the UK's serving Ambassador who wrote this book, states in the introduction that hitherto outsiders' knowledge of Kazakhstan has been conditioned by Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, a representation of the country and its people that is "fundamentally wrong in every respect". Not only is he dead right, but his guide conclusively proves it at every turn, written as it is in a style that is highly informed and laced with astute observation and gentle humour. Kazakhstan is a country that is hauling itself into the 21st century after 140 years of Tsarist/Soviet domination, hence the contrast between its slickly modern cities and Chekhovian villages, resulting in the requirement for a robust sense of humour when travelling up country. It can also be very moving. The Karaganda region in particular was the site of Stalin's KARLAG Gulag complex to which two million mostly political prisoners were condemned between 1930 and 1959 (including Alexander Solzhenitsyn), and from which many did not emerge. A small on-site museum, staffed by soft-spoken descendants of survivors and funded by the Government, gently but subtly ensures that such horrors will not be forgotten. The author deftly captures all of these contrasting moods. He also succesfully conveys the breathtaking physical beauty of much of this vast and sparsely populated country, with its great rivers and lakes, "Virgin Land" steppe and awe-inspiring mountain ranges. But he is particularly strong in his descriptions of the genuine warmth and hospitality of the people of the 130 or so ethnic nationalities which make up the population. A visit to Kazakhstan is surprising and deeply rewarding. Paul Brummell's Bradt guide is the perfect companion.