The Big Red Train Ride (Picador Books) Paperback – 10 Nov 1989
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Top Customer Reviews
For the trip, Newby was accompanied by three fellow travellers - his single-minded Slovenian-born wife, Wanda (whom Newby met whilst escaping from captivity in Italy during WWII), a German Jew who is obsessed with photography, Otto, and the trio's Soviet-appointed minder, Mischa. Newby's writing is never less than interesting, combining a mix of easy-to-read chatty prose, with some passages of beautiful and lucid descriptive writing covering the terrain and environment through which he passed during his 192-hour train voyage. Newby had clearly undertaken extensive research for the trip (as well as having some prior experience of travel in Soviet Russia), and the book provides extensive (and much astonishing) detail of the history of the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway during the latter part of the 19th century, and of the history of the various inhabitant races over the preceding centuries.Read more ›
Accompanied by his wife, a German photographer and their official guide from the then USSR authorities, it makes for interesting reading to go back into the "good old days" of the Cold War and revisit life behind the Iron Curtain.
There are many facts and figures about the railway and its construction which can become slightly laborious, far more interesting are the passages taken for other writings by other adventurers who travelled the route, either on the train or by sledge, in far earlier times.
Unfortunately Newby's style of writing can be quite workmanlike and as such you don't get any feeling for his thoughts about his fellow travellers or those he meets on the journey. Rather than write the book interspersed with witty anecdotes he labours on about the point of how the photography opportunities were restricted and mentions little else about the actual happenings on the journey. For example one photograph within the book shows the interior of a woodsman's cottage, yet we read nothing of how they came to visit this place and what the woodsman's life was like.
Finally the book's ending was particularly disappointing; basically they reach the end and then go home. No mention of if any contact was kept between him and either his German photographer friend, no mention if he final falling out with the USSR official had any further impacts, or how they actually got home from the end of nowhere.
I would possibly read any of Newby's other travel-logs only if I had a specific interest in that location.
No it's not the best written book in the world, but if you do the train ride, it all makes sense...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very enjoyable read, great sense of humour comes through, and very informative.
Will certainly purchase other books by this author
Informative, but that's about the best I can say about this book. Newby obviously did not enjoy the ride or writing about it. Read morePublished on 11 July 2009 by Gordon