is a massive book: sprawling, ambitious and richly detailed. Jonathan Dimbleby's subtitle is A Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People
, and fears that he might have bitten off more than he can chew (both in this book and its accompanying TV series) are quickly allayed. What is most impressive about the book is its canny synthesis of a variety of genres: travelogue, history, social document: Russia
is all of these and more, with the personal voice of the narrative by Dimbleby particularly illuminating, as he struggles to come to terms with the contradictions in this fascinating and infuriating country. It is, as the author says, a country that straddles half the globe, and contains a daunting amount of cultural and religious diversity. All of this is examined here, but any sage judgements are never delivered in sober-sided fashion -- we're always caught up in the drama of Dimbleby's journeys.
The author crossed eight time zones and covered 10,000 miles, from Murmansk in the Arctic Circle to the Asian city of Vladivostok. He travels by every available method: rail, road and sea, and manages to experience all the splendours and the miseries of this amazing country. But although the contours of the locales are conjured up with maximum vividness, there are also fascinating portraits of all the Russians that Dimbleby encounters, from intellectuals and struggling peasants to the new breed of fantastically successful entrepreneurs (many of whom, of course, are now making their home in London). The colour illustrations are well chosen, but it's the text that succeeds in taking the reader on this epic journey -- a journey that will transform completely most people's apprehension of the country. --Barry Forshaw.
--This text refers to the
"A spirited and in many cases brave attempt to describe one of the world's most important civilisations.'" (Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
"The ugly authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin's Kremlin and Russia's hydrocarbon fuelled diplomatic bolshiness are now well documented.There are fewer worthwhile accounts of ordinary life across the vast, eccentric Russian continent in the Putin era. Mr Dimbleby's perceptive travelogue is one of them." (The Ecomonist
"Dimbley's book is a splendid achievement....He constitutes the essence of a good traveller - companionable, thoughtful, sceptical and sometimes wide-eyed with wonder." (Daily Express
"All the major issues facing contemporary Russia are raised and dealt with... [Russia
] engages the brilliant analytical journalist in Jonathan Dimbleby." (Guardian