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Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,660 Ratings  ·  387 Reviews
s/t: 28,000 Miles in Search of the Railway Bazaar
Thirty years after his classic The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux revisits Eastern Europe, Central Asia, India, China, Japan, and Siberia.

Half a lifetime ago, Paul Theroux virtually invented the modern travel narrative by recounting his grand tour by train through Asia. In the three decades since, the world he recorded i
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Hardcover, 512 pages
Published August 18th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shovelmonkey1
Jan 09, 2014 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travellers and train spotters
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: upland pete
Travel is forced upon some and for others it is a decadent pursuit (see recent Grazia article regarding Princess Beatrice, Kate Moss, Simon Cowell et al toasting themselves like smug pink seals on the beaches of St Barts). And there is the other category where travel is a way of life and a part of life and Paul Theroux, greatest, frequently most jaded-est and cynical of all modern travel writers falls into the last category.

Paul Theroux is the anti-guide. He will not tell you where the best sho
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Bob
Jan 21, 2009 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to write about travel
Dang, there was an awesome quote toward the end of this massive travelogue, where the author addresses the reader directly, congratulating him or her on reading long past the point of comfort and common sense. Only the truly dedicated reader, writer, or traveler will love this book
and if it hadn't been overdue at the library, I would transcribe it here.

Endurance itself is one of the innumerable topics Theroux goes on about for months and miles through evocative and lively descriptions of the peo
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Gerund
Dec 20, 2008 Gerund rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
IT is said that travel broadens the horizons; but what to make of pounding the same paths again? In his latest book, American author Paul Theroux retraces the journey through Asia which he took back in 1973 and described in The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), the bestseller which established him as a travel writer.
Travelling mostly by train from London through Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Japan and Russia, the Asia he sees on his second trip is a globalised one in which mo
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Bucket
I spent a wonderful week following Theroux along on his journey, repeatedly tracing my finger along the route on the map in the front of his book. I found the first 1/2 of the book to be the most fascinating, as Theroux describes how his life has changed in the last 30 years and really digs down deep into the life and culture of the places he visits.

I really liked the sections on Turkey, India, and south Asia (Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore). These countries have changed hugely in the pa
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Gerald Sinstadt
The reader who opens the first page of a travel book is about to embark upon a journey with the author; it helps if they are compatible people. Having travelled profitably with Theroux previously, I found in this book that I came progressively to dislike him more and more.

The tipping point was Singapore. In earlier days as a lecturer there, Theroux was apparently badly treated. Now, decades later, he takes his calculated revenge in a long chapter portraying the Lee Kwan Yew regime as harsh and u
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Kiwiflora
Oct 12, 2010 Kiwiflora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Twenty five years ago while living in a Pacific tropical paradise, I would visit the two very small English language book/stationery shops at least weekly to feed my reading appetite. Being very small shops there was a very limited range of books, so I had to expand my horizons somewhat and found myself reading books I would never have normally read, like Paul Theoroux's 'The Great Railway Bazaar'. Even though I was quite young still at the time, and it had been written by a sad, grumpy man some ...more
Jim
I have nothing but happy memories reading Paul Theroux's many travel books. His The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas made me interested in traveling to South America (which I have done four times now). Ghost Train to the Eastern Star is a re-do of the 1973 trip he described in The Great Railway Bazaar, except that the changing politics have opened new doors and closed others.

Theroux has been described as being curmudgeonly and excessively snarky. That does not bother me over
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Jennifer Autry
Feb 02, 2012 Jennifer Autry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael
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Chuck
Aug 26, 2014 Chuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chuck by: Katie Hocevar
This is an excellent book, which I read on the recommendation of my daughter. Back in the early seventies Paul Theroux documented his trip by rail from London to Paris, Istanbul, much of the middle east, India, southeast Asia, Japan and then back across Asia on the transsiberian railroad. This book, was known as The Great Railway Bazaar. The book was very popular and the author decided over thirty years later to take a nearly identical trip to learn how much the world had changed. After all, Rus ...more
Arvind
May 15, 2016 Arvind rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogue
4.5/5 This is is the sequel to the author's classic 'The Great Railway Bazaar' written in 1973. The author retraces the same journey from UK to Japan/Russia and back on trains. This is my first Theroux book and i chose to read this one set in 2006.
The author sets the tone of the book in the first chapter - a joy of idleness, unhurried conversations with wit and empathy. And so we chat with fellow passengers, other authors, taxi-drivers, students but without overdoing it since we have to travel t
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Lisa
Sep 09, 2014 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c20th, usa, travel
I gave this a good try, but it sat on the coffee table for weeks and weeks and I kept finding excuses not to go on with it (sudoku, brushing the dog, reading the TV guide when I don't watch TV). Finally I gave up and took it to the op shop.
Patronising, hyper-critical, unempathetic...
Delta Willis
Theroux begins with disadvantage, having once described me as a "glamour girl"* despite having never met; so his harangue about travel writers penning glib impressions without exploring the side streets falls flat. The first chapters are full of hard rain, hard to take confessions about failures in his private life, and every scene (even lovable London) takes on an odious sheen of mildew and rot. We tour much "disappointed Gothic."

But I love trains and places I've never been, so I stayed onboard
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Jim
Nov 27, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Paul, Paul, you’re mellowing way too much. Of, say, the fifty people you meet on this trip, where are the hateful pen portraits of forty-nine of them compared to the grudging likeability of the one exception to the rule? It’s almost the other way ‘round. Giving money to poor rickshaw drivers with hard luck stories? Come on Paul. How about stiffing him and telling him he stinks like a sewer rat? He has a go at a born again American Christian missionary in Thailand, but it is half hearted. Once he ...more
Eris
Jul 13, 2013 Eris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this, Theroux returns to travel the same journey (as closely as physically/politically possible) in the Great Railway Bazaar. He is older, wiser, more observant this time and brings his maturity and insight into places revisited.

This book is not to be sped through, it is one you read slowly so as to digest the colorful descriptions and reflect on his observations. Many of the places he returns to in this book are places that have recently or are currently undergoing upheaval - getting his on
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Grady McCallie
I checked out this audiobook version of Ghost Train to the Eastern Star from my local library to keep me company on a couple of long drives. Having made it just to Istanbul, I won't be finishing.

I appreciate Theroux's honesty in the opening chapter about the miserable circumstance of his previous trip, 30 years before, of which this is a reprise. But it was hard to swallow what he'd done - set off roaming, temporarily abandoning two small children with his wife at home, against her will. (That h
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Pat
Apr 27, 2009 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't like any of Paul Theroux's novels, including The Mosquito Coast - too dark for my liking. However, I do like much of his travel writing. Still, some of his travel writing has been marred by his persona, which is as likely to come across as nasty and with a generally dyspeptic view of the people he meets and the places he goes. However, when his mood is better, I really enjoy his writing. This was one of his better books - a retracing of the Great Railway Bazaar trip which he took over 30 ...more
John
Jul 09, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, audiobook, audible
I disliked his previous book (Safari), perhaps Theroux at his crankiest and most self-important. Here, he's more his usual self, exasperated at things that'd bother most of us, too, but overall a decent, observant fellow. It's a long book, esp on audio (25 hours), so by the time he hooks up with Pico Iyer in Japan (after previous encounters with Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul and Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka), my attention began to flag; the book's final hour on the Trans-Siberian Railroad seemed an a ...more
Liviu
Sep 04, 2015 Liviu is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
read about 150 pages so far (was interested in the Romania part and the Istanbul part first and foremost but I plan to read till the end) and it's quite entertaining overall, though on occasion the author's voice is a bit annoying
PMP
Feb 01, 2012 PMP rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wideworld
I used to think, man, this Paul Theroux really gets to the heart of each place he visits But then I read the Singapore chapter here, and it is so off, so coloured by his prejudices, that I now doubt his impressions of everywhere else he has been. He's still an ace writer; I just now take my Theroux with more salt.
Sayantan Mukhuti
Nov 25, 2014 Sayantan Mukhuti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-reading
Paul Theroux's love of railways is close to a compulsion.In 1973,Paul Theroux traveled by train from London to Tokyo through India and South-east Asia, before returning on the Trans-Siberian Express to his starting point.This is a follow up of that trip with all the differences and the stark changes in the world in the beginning of the 21st Century.

I had earlier read 'The Great Railway Bazaar' by Paul Theroux after flipping through some pages of it in the library.Being awarded the 1988 Thomas Co
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Quo
Apr 17, 2014 Quo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lin Yutang once commented that the ideal traveler does not know his precise destination; he does not recall where the journey began or even his name. There is something to being open & flexible, concentrating on the process of travel, just being in motion and not focusing on so many other details. This is not precisely Paul Theroux's approach to travel, though he does take considerable pains to be flexible & also to remain anonymous while traveling, except when he is in the company of a ...more
Ensiform
Jul 14, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel, india
Thirty-three years after the first book Theroux returns to the route he took in The Great Railway Bazaar, or as near as an approximation as current politics will let him – by train from France to Turkey (via the now-shabby Orient Express), through India (where he smirks at the idea of the new technological India, as so much seems the same as ever), Thailand, Singapore (which he finds hypocritical and arrogant), Vietnam, Japan, Siberia, and back. As on the previous trip, he meets people who surpr ...more
Ms. T
May 22, 2011 Ms. T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theroux retraces a trip he made as a young man, traveling mostly by train from London through Turkey, Central Asia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and back through Russia and Europe. It's an interesting look at places I've been recently or hope to visit soon. Still, the book is depressing, although I agree with Theroux's ultimate message, that the world--and all of us--are in trouble. Few have traveled as long or as widely as Theroux. Maybe you can't see the long, slow global slide from your o ...more
bibliotekker Holman
Every travel book is a snapshot of a moment in time. In this book, the author revisits a trip he made in 1973 in 2006. The author reflects on the changes both in himself and the places he visits.

This is one of those books that makes one intimately aware of being a member of an insulated and privileged group within a much larger world poverty and struggle. Theroux explores the depths of poverty as well as the grim realties of an ever present underworld of sex and drugs in each of the places he vi
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Judy
Dec 21, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating sense emerges - of history unfolding - as the author at the age of 66 retraces his route taken in 1973, half a life time ago. His comparisons together with what the reader knows of the current situation illustrate just how rapidly Asia, in particular, is evolving.

I love all Paul Theroux's travel writing, but this is better than ever. Here, he is a kinder, more compassionate man than when he wrote The Great Railway Bazaar. Yet he is as sharp as always with vivid character sketches o
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Caleb
Sep 23, 2012 Caleb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What makes a 5 star book? It's September and this is the first one I've handed out for the year. To me, it's about quality of writing, interest of topic, engagement, and that extra something. It's when I have a busy week at work but I still squeeze in as many more pages as possible to see what happens next. With this, a travelogue, it's how many times I go to my phone for wikipedia to look up another interesting place in another country that I have never heard of before. It's also the book with ...more
Alex V.
I enjoyed this book, but I wonder if I'd enjoyed it more or less if I'd read The Great Railway Bazaar (whose train journey he retraces 30 years later in this book) first. What was interesting (in a meta-literary way) is to see the seeds of The Elephanta Suite being sowed during the India part of his trip and how he can focus primarily on the train itself for so long and still keep you hooked through a succession of ever drearier train stations, crippling poverty and dodgy checkpoints.

The real b
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Kasa Cotugno
Over thirty years ago I fell in love with The Great Railway Bazaar, a travel book like no other by a then untested author. In the intervening years, Paul Theroux has become one of my go-to guys for both fiction and nonfiction, uncommon talent for a writer. Now he has recreated the route he took all those years ago, a feat he points out was not performed by other author/travelers (except perhaps for Richard Henry Dana in 3 Years Before the Mast and its followup). Unable to enter some countries of ...more
Rajiv
Aug 25, 2012 Rajiv rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another engrossing book from Paul Theroux whose books are as much a meditation on travel and it's impact on the human psyche as much as it os about the people he meets and interacts with along the way. Starting with the hinterland of Europe through India and Southeast Asia and the long return back through Siberia, Theroux intersperses slices of meditation on the world flying by with notes on other literary giants that have touched that landscape, as well stopping.by to explore specific sites of ...more
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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“I think most serious and omnivorous readers are alike- intense in their dedication to the word, quiet-minded, but relieved and eagerly talkative when they meet other readers and kindred spirits.” 35 likes
“..luxury is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing. Luxury spoils and infantilizes you and prevents you from knowing the world. That is its purpose, the reason why luxury cruises and great hotels are full of fatheads who, when they express an opinion, seem as though they are from another planet. It was also my experience that one of the worst aspects of travelling with wealthy people, apart from the fact that the rich never listen, is that they constantly groused about the high cost of living – indeed, the rich usually complained of being poor.” 16 likes
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