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Shadow of the Silk Road [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Colin Thubron , Jonathan Keeble
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
RRP: £72.26
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Book Description

1 April 2007
There was never one Silk Road - but several. The route chosen by Colin Thubron passes through China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, taking in the most sterile desert on earth (the Taklamakan) and the strife-torn mountain valleys of today's conflicts, as he travels from the tomb of the Yellow Emperor (the mythic progenitor of the Chinese people) to the ancient port of Antioch, by local bus, truck, car - occasionally Landrover, horse or camel. He covers 7,000 miles in 8 months, and confesses that it is the most difficult, complex and ambitious journey he has undertaken in 40 years of travel. The Silk Road is a huge network of arteries and veins, splitting and converging across the breadth of Asia. Chinese silk has turned up in the hair of a 10th-century-BC Egyptian mummy; equally, the tartan plaids of 3000-year-old mummies in the Chinese desert echo those of early Celts. To be travelling the Silk Road, writes Colin Thubron, is to be travelling the history of the world: tracing the passage not just of trade and armies, but of ideas, religions and inventions. Yet - despite the lure of the history - this book is as much about Asia today. Its themes include different Islams (oppressed in China; fervent in Afghanistan and Iran; cautiously monitored in Uzbekistan); contrast (no cities could be more different than ancient Samarkand and modern Teheran); and the way that today's borders are meaningless because the true boundaries are made by tribe, ethnicity, language and religion. "Shadow of the Silk Road" is a brilliant account of an ancient world in modern ferment.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 12 pages
  • Publisher: ISIS Publishing; Unabridged edition (1 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753127164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753127162
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 18.8 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,353,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A distinguished travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron was named by the Times as one of the fifty greatest post-war writers. His books include Among the Russians, Behind the Wall, In Siberia and the New York Times bestseller Shadow of the Silk Road. He has won many awards.

Product Description

Review

"What a journey, what a book" -- Sunday Express

"[Thubron] brilliantly evokes the history and culture"
-- The Good Book Guide, April 2007

"an important contemporary account of...some of the most
significant...transactions in human history" -- TLS

"the reliable storyteller we needed in place of Marco Polo. His
stock in trade makes him invaluable to us" -- Independent on Sunday

'shimmering prose... so multilayered that, when I reached the end,
I wanted to read it all over again.’ -- Christina Lamb, Sunday Times

Singularly fine prose -- Good Book Guide --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

Colin Thubron has been described as 'one of the two or three best living travel writers, in some ways probably the best' - Independent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
173 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious travel, by a real grown up 13 Jun 2007
By MarkE
Format:Hardcover
If your experience of travel writing is mainly the likes of Bill Bryson, Tony Hawks and Michael Palin, this is something totally different. Colin Thubron is almost intimidatingly intelligent and perceptive. He does not patronise the reader but assumes you are as intelligent as he is, and he wants to share what he is seeing and hearing. As he speaks many languages and seems to have the gift of picking up a little of each new language as he hears it, he has a lot to report, and he does so clearly and accurately (so far as I can tell). There are few, if any, of the "humourously colourful locals" found in other travel books, partly because I think Thubron respects people's dignity too much to laugh at them in this way. He is, perhaps, part of a previous generation of travel writers, which I do not consider a bad thing.

Like the best travel books you will learn about the geography and topography of the areas Thubron travels through, you will learn something about the locals he meets on his travels, and about the history of each place he visits as he passes through. One revelation for me (perhaps others were already aware) was that the silk route was seldom travelled from end to end; most merchants traded with the next towns in each direction. It was through a relay that goods passed from merchant to merchant, from Antioch to Beijing, and beyond in each case. Thus the Romans in the West had no idea of China, while the Chinese had no idea of the Roman empire. By the end of the book the reader will have some idea of both cultures, and those between. You will also have some idea of the people on the silk road today; they may not be what you expect from those countries.

A journey with Thubron through the medium of this book is a delight, but you will need to think at times. A journey at his side in reality might be stressfull because I would worry about falling short of his expectations of me. I would still sign up tomorrow.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An experience by proxi 2 Dec 2007
Format:Paperback
At the time of this review, I am about 70% through the book, which may mean that my views are unimportant compared with the three people reporting before me. However, I think that anyone who reads this book is likely to experience the feelings that I express here. Firstly an immense admiration for the stamina and bravery of Colin Thubron for undertaking such a demanding journey, at a time of life when most people are taking care to not over-extend themselves. Secondly, a feeling of inadequacy, faced with Thubron's immense command of the history of the regions he visits; the upside of this, on the other hand, is my own vastly increased knowledge by following up the information in the book - for example the life and times of Tamerlane. Finally, and slightly critically, I feel that Thubron's much admired writing does suffer from "simile overload" when describing the environment. Overall though it is a pleasure to read a travel book which concentrates on revealing the peoples and countries through which the author passes rather than revealing himself.
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119 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious travel-writing about an epic journey 25 May 2007
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
For those who like in-depth accounts of epic journeys, this book is perfect. No Bryson of Palin-style humour here, rather a serious traveller of the old-school, who does it the hard way, pushing into remote, forbidding regions, taking risks in a way which suggests he has given up on life itself, Colin Thubron provides us with adventure by proxy, and draws us into his travels, making us feel we are catching glimpses of places no Westerner has visited before. It goes without saying that Thurbron writes well. This is literate travel writing which does not attempt to woo the reader with humour or pointless anecdotes. Every word is there for a purpose, and this is a book to be read slowly and savoured.

The journey is fascinating. Through northern China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, then through Iran and into Turkey, we visit places which are definitely off the tourist trail. Thubron had to work hard to get past border posts and pushed his luck with renegade officials to a startling degree, in order to get into the heart of tribal lands, where the reader feels he will find it hard to leave in one piece. His descriptions of landscape are magnificent - we can feel the desolation of the Gobi desert, and he uses more adjectives to describe mountain ranges than I would have thought possible. We read of the time of change which has come to these lands, but frankly, this is nothing new for them, for Thubron tells us of their troubled pasts, with marauding armies constantly laying waste and altering boundaries until the rise of the next dispensation. The people he describes seem to have survived constant massacre and genocide, and yet retained their culture, their language and their physical characteristics.
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199 of 209 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadow of the Silk Road 3 Oct 2006
By Samogon
Format:Hardcover
Esoteric history and contemporary hardship merge as the grandmaster of travel literature mesmerises with this wondrous account of his 7,000 mile journey along the route of the 'Silk Road', through China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.

With the likes of affable everyman Michael Palin, undemanding bestseller Bill Bryson and promising first-time writers such as Daniel Kalder adding these days to the swelling ranks of travel literature, it is always a joy to be reminded of the unrivalled proficiency demonstrated by the old-school masters of the genre. Wilfred Thesiger and Bruce Chatwin are no longer with us, Paul Theroux seems now to have turned his hand to novels; the aging Eric Newby, I daresay, has had his day. But there remains an author who is still very much at the top of his game yet avoids the mediocrity of the mainstream.

In alternating every few years between a travel book and a novel, Colin Thubron, in his relative longevity, riveting choice of destination and theme, has proven himself to be not merely a superior travel writer, but perhaps the very best still left. Using the established device of fact-based present to frame and extrapolate historical and scholarly past, in Shadow of the Silk Road, his first travel book since 1999's In Siberia, Thubron has produced a magnificently multilayered and consistently fascinating piece of work.

History, archaeology and mythology are interspersed with accounts of encounter, simple meals, poverty and peasant life; off-the-cuff, revelatory chats with old friends, farmers and daydreamers, as Thubron wends his way from China to Turkey, posing as journalist, then historian, in explaining his presence to suspicious bureaucrats and wary locals.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars If you like endless desciptions of deserts you might just like it
we are reading this in our book club. Oh dear! never have I been so boored by a book. If you like endless desciptions of deserts you might just like it.
Published 12 days ago by beadlady
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fine
Published 13 days ago by Mrs Virginia L Holly
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally well written. Occasionally quite challenging but keep...
Exceptionally well written. Occasionally quite challenging but keep going, it's worth it. A fascinating telling of an epic journey. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cara
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book and having read it my knowledge of ...
A beautifully written book and having read it my knowledge of the silk road would be encyclopaedic were I not to have been sinking under the factual weight of information. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Engineer #1
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener,well-written, but the magic of the silk road have gone...
very erudite and well-researched.On a more personal note,some of these places have been on my list of places to visit and now I am not so sure.......seems like Paradise lost. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jette wang wahnon
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry this just did not do it for me
I bought this as it was our book club read but only one person in the club finished it!! It reads more like a travel guide and to me seemed to be trying to be too clever and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by localgirlinaphotograph
1.0 out of 5 stars Repetition, repetition
It should have been an exciting book; Germany before the wall came down, the Stasi. It was badly written, the narrative from the two main characters was almost identical and they... Read more
Published 4 months ago by AMBT
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Like being there! I have read all of Thurbons books and this is one of my favourites! Buy it and go on an informative journey.
Published 5 months ago by mr b p gough
1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably ponderous
It was a brilliant idea. Follow the route of the ancient Silk Road, and write about everything you see, everyone you meet. What could possibly go wrong? Read more
Published 8 months ago by radiomike
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes a great present
This transaction went very smoothly. The goods turned up on time. Will do buisness with this trader again. Can highly recommend them to others.
Published 9 months ago by John Murray of Lowestoft
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