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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak twilight across a forgotten land
"In Siberia" is Thubron's painstakingly bleak account of a journey across the cold, oddly unknown region of Siberia. He begins his assessment of post-Soviet Russia at the Ural Mountains, and travels slowly west, following broadly the route of the trans-Siberian railway. His account is one of enduring struggle, against both the cold (in Dudinka, where the River...
Published on 1 Oct 2001 by The Hammer of Barnston

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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, fascinating, somewhat misleading
One has the impression that Thubron wanted to find the bleakest, saddest visions of Siberia. And find them he does, painting a portrait of Siberia as even more harsh and cruel than the region's already severe public perception. While admirably described and very true to reality - his encounter with 'Rasputin' in Pokrovskoe proved almost exactly what happened to me too...
Published on 15 Feb 2007 by M Elliott


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak twilight across a forgotten land, 1 Oct 2001
This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
"In Siberia" is Thubron's painstakingly bleak account of a journey across the cold, oddly unknown region of Siberia. He begins his assessment of post-Soviet Russia at the Ural Mountains, and travels slowly west, following broadly the route of the trans-Siberian railway. His account is one of enduring struggle, against both the cold (in Dudinka, where the River Yenisei meets the Arctic Ocean, houses must be build on concrete pillars, otherwise the heat exerted by the foundations will melt the permafrost that lingers just a few feet beneath the ground, and cause the building to subside), and the economic collapse that has followed the collapse of communism. For most of those he meets, it is the everyday necessities of survival - food and warmth - that form the focus of their lives.
In parts, one can sense a fond yearning for the days of the Soviet Republic - when the collective farms functioned properly, with working tractors, to produce food for all. Now the mechanics of such planned economies have disintegrated, prices have spiralled upwards, the savings of the old have been rendered worthless and the young have little enthusiasm, other than to leave. Despite this, some do still find space to find hope, perhaps in the renaissance of forgotten religions, or perhaps simply in some strained, optimistic view of the future.
Throughout the book the shadow of the Gulag, the Soviet labour camp, lingers. Throughout Stalin's reign, criminals, political opponents, or simply those that were deemed to be a threat, were sent to the bleak wastes of Siberia for imprisonment. In the mines, inland of Magadan, on the Pacific coast, nobody lasted long; Thubron seems to touch upon suffering of the millions who died with a sense of quiet bleakness, rather like the snowy, barely living landscape in which they died.
This is not a book to read to cheer oneself up. True, the old Shaman, Kunga-Boo, playing wildly on his tambour, and enthusiastically requesting the author to return with a walrus, provides an endearing caesura within the enfolding sense of gloom. But the lingering picture that Thubron lyrically creates is of a people with a broken spirit, and a vast wilderness of slow, cold decay.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars superior travel writing, 17 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
His writing is often so lovely I turn the page back just to read it again (doesn't happen often). Sometimes it wants to be poetic but is oblique and impenetrable. But the man can write far, far better than most. I spent three months in Siberia and I recognise all his characters, he conveys the desperation of the place beautifully, the shabbiness, but also the pride and the physical dimensions. Towards the end, the travel writing framework got wearying - not another priest drinking in a hut - but then he delivers the final chapter, which is superb and shocking and serene, and he is forgiven the slight tediousness or tiredness leading up to it. And for once, a travel writer who speaks the language of the country he/she is visiting, and doesn't pretend to by neglecting to mention translators. All in all, readable and memorable and a far cry from sunday supplement travel puffery.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly well-written, spell-binding., 3 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
This is an extraordinary book. Once again, Colin Thubron manages to unlock a hitherto unknown part of the world to his readers. His eloquence makes one feel as if one was there with him. His description of the Stalin Gulags was so horrific that it was almost unbearable to read. The cruelty of the country and the desperate sadness - or perhaps confusion - of the people is tangible. One aches for them and with them. No book could better bring to life this country which embodies so much of the history of the once mighty Soviet Union and which was once locked away from the rest of the world. It is a must.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life In The Wilderness, 22 July 2004
This review is from: In Siberia (Hardcover)
The overwhelming feeling one gets from 'In Siberia' is the incredible scale of the region. The depth of research that Thubron conducted prior to this book is evident in his narration. As he travels through this bleak, hostile region, his meetings with native people and notes on the Tsar, Gulag and Shamanism ,among other things, maintain the reader's interest and help to provide a scale and background to a fascinating part of the world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting journey through Siberia, 5 Jan 2010
By 
Mirko Saimovaara (Finland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
The book is well composed with an insight into the nature and people inhabiting Russia outside of its Western hemisphere. It easily takes one's imagination to a throrough journey. I never got bored of various people and places, which were described with such a magic touch of deepness. Sad and somehow tragical as Russia is the book still finds a spark of good in all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soul of Siberia, 30 Nov 2012
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This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
Siberia fills one twelfth of the land-mass of the whole Earth, the much area is considered to be the wastelands, and it is the place where many people wouldn't wish to visit, as a consequence of political corruption and industrial ruins in the Siberia.

Colin Thubron completed the 15,000 mile epic, travelling with defective trains and buses and meeting with various people, e.g. descendants of religious shamans, Gulag survivors. He grips the reader with his first impression of Siberia: "A bleak beauty and an indelible fear". His precise and haunting prose matches the subject perfectly and gives the reader picture of the life of people who have lived in the most desolate and dispiriting places on earth, blending the stories of the past and present of Siberia. His findings include a number of moving and uplifting accounts people who have lost their distant and close families, relatives, and friends being murdered and executed by the political affairs, killed by work-related incidents and illness caused by the cold and inhospitable weather, and the people who have demonstrated strong determination to continue to live with their life despite the ordeals that they have to live with industrial ruins of Soviet Union in the wide areas.

This travel writing will greatly affect each reader and keep him/her haunting of series of dire memories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Majesty, mystery and misery abound in Thubron's take on this fascinating place., 21 Sep 2011
This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
There's something about this superb book that manages to make the work of most other travel writers seem contrived. Inspired it seems by the relatively pure motive of wanting to find out what Siberia is really like, Thubron ventures across the whole territory, and is so doing has fashioned a hard-to-put-down book that reveals a landscape and a people that are equally distinctive.

Thubron is adept at providing the necessary jaw-dropping statistics about the sheer size of the place when needs be. He is also equal to the task of evoking this landscape in many finely written passges. However, the number of pages devoted to geography and topography are dwarfed by the number of encounters with real people. This is no bad thing, since Thubron clearly has a talent for getting on with people and for engaging them in conversation, and in turn he is very skilled in drawing a revealing pen-portrait. Whether it's a man who claims to be directly descended from Siberian native Rasputin, or the Doctor tending to a decaying village of hopeless, hapless drunks in the far north, a survivor of the Gulag, or the KGB man turned Baptist preacher in Siberia's west, many of these people will stay in your memory. In the absence of any real answer to what Siberia is like, Thubron doesn't contrive to provide his own answers and instead reveals a lot more about the place by showing what effect it has had on some of the people who actually dwell there.

Overall, Thubron is sympathetic to these people and the region without being sentimental. He clearly respects the fortitude many of them show, and does them some kind of service by rendering so clearly the often harsh plights in which they find themselves. For Siberia is, he reveals, a place not only with an often dark past, but one that currently exists in an uncertain and (certainly in economic terms) troubled present. As another reviewer has pointed out, Thubron's take on Siberia might be overly negative given that it's informed purely by the places he went to and the people he met. However, I for one don't doubt that his account is faithful to what he personally experienced, and you really couldn't make some of this stuff up.

It comes across as a land of extrmes, then, but in this measured and memorable book at least you will find it a rewarding place to visit on the page, and will be glad of the chance to get beyond the few enduring popular cliches that cling to Siberia.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
nice travel book by a curious non-judgemental writer
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4.0 out of 5 stars High quality arm-chair tourism, 24 Nov 2013
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This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
This book took me through the vast, sparsely populated lands, meeting some eccentric locals but also getting a real feel for how the locals live. Its writing is colourful and helps to illuminate the scenes, the locals and their experiences with the author. I really enjoyed this - it made me interested in planning a visit a little, but mostly it filled in some of the blanks for me. Now, when I look at a map of Siberia, there are places like Novosibirsk that I have pictures of, even if just from my imagination...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 10 May 2013
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This review is from: In Siberia (Paperback)
For me is the best book of siberia's travelling. Great description of the Siberian city and the siberian people. I dream a trik like this.
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In Siberia
In Siberia by Colin Thubron (Paperback - 7 Sep 2000)
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