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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2006
When I read this book I had to carry a pencil around with me to underline phrases and sentences, the odd turn of phrase. I never wanted it to end and I thought he was writing just for me, just to entertain me and to tell me a story. It comes across as intimate - the writing is so emotive and sentient.

To me, this is what travel writing, indeed writing, is all about.
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on 4 November 2001
Colin Thubron, I wish I was carrying your backpack for you on these journeys. Among the Russians made me laugh, this book made me drool! I have worked extensively in the Caspian region and you write what I live!For lovers of travel writing - buy this book!
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on 27 September 2008
Colin Thubron explored the western Asian countries - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, and Kazakshtan, all of which were formally governed and administered by the Soviet Union.

He provides an outstanding account of people, history, religious activities, and culture of a vast region in line with history and politics. It is interesting to note how Stalin intimidated Arabic speaking people and Islamic worshippers. He didn't only interrogate or penalise his suspects and people who had made comments about him. The people were also banned to use their language at home and schools, and sing at mosques. After the collapse of Soviet Union, they gained freedom of expressions. However, the number of production of literature and music pieces in their language have not been rising. Mr Thubron reveals that masses of people have lost their jobs after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and they have been experiencing difficulties of obtaining everyday items, all of them have high prices. Ostensibly, there are loads of potential artists who are unable to buy stationery items.

Colin Thubron met several Muslim communities, and finds the reasons that they are one of the most strict and resilient communities in the world. They believe that all Muslim worshippers will be able to live on after their death if they have faithfully carried out their prayers five times a day.

The author discovers the fact of the countries which are not easy for everybody to visit. It is a very entertaining book and a good item while sitting in an armchair, and makes you feel that there is no need to visit those countries experiencing difficulties of inefficient transport, as well as dealing with complicated bureaucracies.
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on 26 November 2000
A voyage of discovery among the peoples and countries of the central Asian former Soviet republics. A revealing insight into historic but little known cultures and with amazing contrasts to Western ways of life and ideals. A poignant collection of encounters with residents who are torn between the formerly surpressed Islamic heritage and the legacy of their Soviet rule. Both informative and emotive.
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on 3 June 2015
The writer seems determined to cast a melancholy pall over the whole experience. Of course, after such cataclysmic changes in their country, people are going to be nervous and unsure of the future. However, his choice of adjectives such as "dead", "bleached" to describe the brick walls and monuments of Khiva and Bukhara must surely have been a deliberate device to extend the gloom. After my own recent visit, I feel he could just as easily (and more truthfully) have selected "warm", "glowing", "vibrant". Or was it always cloudy when he was there?
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on 25 March 2012
I agree with the reviewers stating that this book is very well written. As in «In Siberia» Thubron comes though as a very gifted writer in «The lost heart of Asia». Though the Lost heart of Asia is 80 pages longer than In Siberia, Thubron succeeds to go much more into depth and cover the region more thoroughly in «In Siberia» than in «The Lost Heart of Asia».

First «The lost Heart of Asia» is primarily a book about Uzbekistan (213 out of 367 pages) and Turkmenistan (50 pages). As long as a book about Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is what you search for, that is of course no problem. Be aware of this if you mainly are interested in reading about some other country in the region though. It is hardly fair to hold against a book the year of publishing, but also be aware that the book was published in 1994 and a lot has happened since then.

The manuscript for the rest of the region needs to be worked more on. The chapters about Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are simply weak (and short as if the writer know they are weak). The chapter on Kazakhstan has some great qualities but is not worked enough on to fulfill its full potential. The nuclear testing sites and the Soviet Nuclear program, the Gulags, the deported minorities and life in the mines, Bajkonur Kosmodrom and the Soviet Space program, the Aral sea, are some examples of topics that arguably need to be covered first hand in a travel book about Kazakhstan.

One can argue that the Aral sea is covered in the Uzbekistan chapter and that central Asia is more than Gulags and toxic waste. A problem though, is that the coverage of the Aral sea and the Karakalpakistan region is the weakest in the coverage of Uzbekistan (The Aral sea is covered excellent in «Chasing the Sea» by Tom Bissel though). Another problem is that while Thubron is as successful with describing the beauty of the region and its people as in «In Siberia», he is unfortunately not equally successful with including the hardship of ordinary people and ugly face of the region and its history. This is a pity because for instance the meeting with the former Gulag inmate of Vorkuta is among the most moving moments in «In Siberia». Chapter 9 about Fergana Valley is an exception, Thubron's meeting with the old Volga-German and the Uzbekhs story of the local people and the War in Afghanistan are highlights. If you know or have the slightest suspicion that you will like Thubron's portraits of people with a story to tell, chapter 9 is not unlikely to be the chapter you will enjoy most. All in all, that these portraits are fewer and far between and that «The lost Heart of Asia» does not cover the region as good as «In Siberia», makes me conclude on 4 stars, good - but not as good as «In Siberia».
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on 15 July 2014
This is so well written I am transported to those deserts on the silk Road. This book has cured me of my desire to travel there and I can only hope that life is better for its inhabitants now. Excellent.
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on 5 March 2014
This is the story of one mans journey through the 5 stans of central asia namely -Turkmenistan,Tajikistan,Uzbeckistan,Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan shortly after they became independant of tht USSR
I was interested in the book as I had made a similar journey but in the opposite direction.
The book can not be described as a travelogue as it is as much a history book and a record of interminable conversations as it is about the places the author visited. Too much of the book refers to Uzbeckistan to the detriment of the other 4 stans.
What the book desperately needs are pictures (there are none) as this part of the world is most picturesque.
Not recommended.
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on 13 August 2014
I have read several of Colin Thubron's books now, and he has quite the most relentlessly negative view about everyone and everything he encounters. The people he meets are presented either as miserable and hopeless; if they don't actually say this they are made out to be deluded fantasists. If a building is old and ruined this represents decay and neglect, if it is new or restored this is a symbol of soulless stamping out of 'true' national identity. I travelled in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan recently myself, and came away with a very different impression of places and people. The writing is good, but my goodness if the was your only source of information you would not be inclined to go near any of the places he writes about.
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on 20 April 2013
Through 367 pages we follow Colin Thubrons journey by planes, trains and automobiles through the 5 stans of Central Asia. For anyone interested in the history and culture of these republics, "The lost hear of Asia" provides interesting and fascinating insights as we follow Thubron's encounters with a host of different people from various backgrounds across the region. You may wonder where he finds them all, but each person, some of whom come from surprising minorities such as Germans or Koreans, forms a thread in what becomes a beautiful tapestry of the region. From Tamerlane to Stalin, we also learn about the leaders of the region, who left their mark, often in cruel and oppressive ways, but are still revered by the people. They seem to like "strong" leaders?

Thubron may sometimes be hard to follow. His vocabulary is vast and prosaic style sometimes difficult to understand, making it necessary to read paragraphs more than once to grasp the meaning of what he is writing. Although the book is almost 20 years old, the national "psyche" of the region has probably not changed fundamentally, but some paragraphs may be somewhat dated. I had hoped for more detailed coverage of Kirghizistan and and Tajikistan, which are only briefly described compared to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Still, the book is hard to put down if you have an interest in the region and its people. Well worth a read.
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