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Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland [Hardcover]

Susan Richards
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 18.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

13 May 2009
Far from Moscow and St Petersburg, there lies another Russia. Overlooked by the new urban elites and almost unknown to the West, in the great provincial hinterlands of the Volga River and Siberia, Russians struggle to reconcile their old traditions with the new ways of living. Returning again and again to the deep heartland of this rapidly evolving country from 1992 to the present, Susan Richards struck up some extraordinary friendships. With Anna, a questing journalist struggling to express her passionate spirituality within the rules of the new society. And Natasha, a restless spirit, transplanted from Siberia in a bid to escape the demands of her upper class family and her own demons. And Tatiana and Misha, whose business empire has blossomed from the ashes of the Soviet Union but who, despite all their luxury, seem uneasy in this new world. Through their stories and her own experiences Susan Richards demonstrates how in Russia the past and the present cannot be separated. 'Lost and Found in Russia' is a magical and unforgettable portrait of a society in transition. 'Once again, Susan Richards gives a rare and wonderful evocation of ordinary lives in Russia. People fall in love, fall ill, make money, lose money; some are nobly defeated, some shamelessly successful. Each one tells us more about the lethal tides of recent Russian history than years of newspaper reports.' - Philip Marsden; 'Russia exerts a peculiar pull for English travellers...Susan Richards's version shines because she knows her subjects very well. These are stories of friendships across the miles, not just brief encounters plundered for material...This traveller's tale, with all the absorption and detail of the genre, is also the story of an entire country.' - Anne McElvoy, Evening Standard; 'Lost and Found in Russia is intense reading...bursting with good material...For a rich portrait of the new Russia, grab this off the shelf and skip all those biographies of Vladimir Putin.' - Thomas de Waal, Sunday Times; 'wonderful...Lost and Found in Russia is beautifully written, with arresting images on almost every page... It is a travelogue as rich and compelling as a novel' - Lesley Chamberlain, Independent; 'fascinating...You should buy the book to find out how [the] story ended, as well as what happened when Richards hopped on a cruise down the Volga organised by a mafia boss she had never met.. there is a human optimism that shines out of these hard lives and this loving account of them - an optimism that defies the rational. But then if there is one thing you learn from this book, it is that we must all live beyond the rational.' - Angus MacQueen, Guardian; 'moving, sometimes perplexing, even distressing...Susan Richards combines fluency in Russian with great tact, curiosity and a capacity for friendship which overcomes the barriers that defeat most foreign attempts to chronicle post-Soviet Russia...her book, being a bottom-to-top account, is perhaps equally important [as Anna Politkovskaya's Putin's Russia]...as admirable as it is honest'. - Donald Rayfield, Literary Review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: I B Tauris & Co Ltd; 1st Edition edition (13 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848850239
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848850231
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 514,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'A work of great thoughtfulness and enterprise, it sheds a uniquely intimate light behind the facade of the new Russia.' --Colin Thubron

'Susan Richards has long been one of the very best writers on Russia. Her new book is a remarkable blend of travel and reflection, as she introduces us to the vivid gallery of people she meets in the provinces. The result is a brilliant, poignant evocation of a society in transition.' --Robert Service

'A uniquely personal chronicle, and a testament to friendship. Susan Richards's political fact-finding is set ablaze by her intimacy with the discomforts and dangers of life in these remote regions, where the magic of the natural world challenges urban degradation, and where physical deprivation coexists with a richness of belief-systems as strange as the mountains of the moon.' --Victoria Glendinning

About the Author

Susan Richards is the author of Epics of Everyday Life, which won the P.E.N. Time-Life Award for Non-Fiction and the Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award in 1990. She edits open Democracy Russia, part of open Democracy, the website about global affairs which she co-founded. After her doctorate on Alexander Solzhenitsyn from St Antony's College, Oxford University, she initiated the programme of talks, conferences and debates at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts and worked as a film producer. With her husband, the television producer Roger Graef, she started Bookaid, a charity which sent a million English language books to public libraries throughout the Soviet Union.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in Action 10 Aug 2009
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Lost and Found in Russia uses the stories of everyday Russians to tell the story of Russia since the fall of communism in the 1990s. It draws on the experiences of Susan Richards, an experienced and accomplished journalist in the country, and paints a dismal picture of the fates of Russians since the shackles of the old regime fell.

The book's main flaw is the lack of central narrative or sense of context. Richards tells us nothing of herself or what she's doing in Russia - yet her career as a journalist and charity founder is a remarkable one. There is an assumption that the reader will be familiar with her work, particularly an earlier book - Epics of Everyday Life.

This is a curious anomaly and the result is that as a reader I cared nothing for her. Her characterization is also weak and I found it difficult to empathize with her associates - many, such as Anna, who are otherwise fascinating - whom she uses to illustrate the story of Russia's people. As a book it lacks purpose, seeming like a string of chronologically listed anecdotes. There are also some glaring errors (such as her recounting watching Portugal beat France in the 2006 World Cup semi final) that diminish its credibility further.

This isn't to say that Lost and Found in Russia is entirely without merit. Some of the stories are moving, strange, fascinating - as witness Richards' encounters with Old Believers or Russian scientists. Had she been more selective and used them in a manner reminiscent of Wendell Stevenson's magnificent `Stories I Stole' (covering similar themes in post-communist Georgia) it would have been a far better work. As they stand they just don't stack up to build a cohesive book. Instead Lost and Found in Russia seems like an unwieldy piece of magazine journalism and is ultimately an unsatisfactory experience.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russia unraveled 27 May 2009
Susan Richards has travelled into a Russia far beyond the territory of either diplomats or journalists. She has pieced together the whole anguish of the last two decades in the most anguished society of Europe. You take history out of the book but it is living people that she has put into it. It has taken sixteen years of visiting and revisiting the same people across a huge landmass as their lives have been rendered incomprehensible even to themselves in the turmoil of the times through which they have lived. Yes, it reads like a novel, but because it gets beneath the skin of history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing 19 April 2011
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Richards' book contains a lot of fascinating and revealing material. However, a reader who has not trodden the same path cannot judge how accurate her stories are (other reviews cast some doubt on this). I was struck by the number of conversations reported verbatim, Russian translated into fluent colloquial English. Perhaps the book does include some fictional elements as well as misremembered events. But it seems perceptive, e.g. on the clever guesswork employed by the "faith healer" or the hypocrisy of the Old Believer community.

Why is this reader underwhelmed? Two main reasons: (a)there is far too much about Richards' own feelings and emotions. Readers probably want - instead of the autobiography - to have the portraits of the Russians fleshed out, to see more continuity between the chapters in their lives and thus to get a better feel for each of the main characters. (b) Richards' style is insecure, to say the least: she seems unsure of the meaning of some words (e.g. "tonsure"); she resorts too many clunky metaphors or similes, too many adjectives, too many sentences that don't work (e.g. "The end of his second term in office was drawing to a close"(p. 231)). [Colin Thubron has encouraged Richards, with his usual kindness; but compare his style, his sheer verve, with hers!] Richards acknowledges the help of an editor. She needs a better one to prune and polish what could have been a good book.

Three stars for effort.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars russia found ... 27 May 2009
It's hard to believe this book isn't fiction, the creation of a brilliant novelist. How eerie to know that every word is true - the adventure of a wandering heart and insightful intelligence, befriended and often beloved by individual Russians, mostly women. Here is the true Russia which only sometimes escapes as through a veil in the international pages of our newspapers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The weird and wonderful in contemporary Russia 17 Sep 2009
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This is a fascinating and moving account of a Russia unknown to the wider world. Russia is homogenous in some ways such as its language, education, architecture, infrastructure, politics and state control but extremely heterogenous in its immense social diversity. Social groups as different as super-rich oligarchs, globally aware Moscovites, well educated business executive elites, intellectual dissidents, conformist city dwelling families, isolated provincial city populations, party loving Caucasians, feudal Moslem believers, and the rural poor can all be found within its borders. Susan Richards travels to Russia's extreme reaches and documents the personal and social life she finds there. Her book includes a useful timeline of major events shaping the country from 1990 to 2008 as well as short italicised interludes to her chapters succinctly explaining the context of developments in national life. What is missing and would be useful is a timeline of her own journeys to show the exact timing, duration and therefore context of her visits which cover some 16 years.

Richards' friends are Russia's far flung displaced intelligentsia. They are therefore not typical of the broader population but are certainly a distinct social type.
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