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In Siberia

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,621 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
In the early 1980s, Colin Thubron wrote a book about his travels around the Soviet Union in an old Morris Minor. In the late 90s, post–Soviet Union, he decided to explore Siberia—this time by truck, by bus, by boat. The result is an evocative account of an extraordinary region. He travels through exotic cities and deserted villages, meets nostalgic old Stalinists and aggre ...more
Paperback, 287 pages
Published 2000 by Penguin (first published 1999)
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Apr 27, 2013 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Siberian sofa surfers
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: my friend nick
In Siberia was not only a trip across the vast frozen land mass in the company of Colin Thubron, for me it was an evocative text conjuring memories of my childhood.

When I was young (in the 1980s... I know I am so old and it was so long ago) my Dad worked in Siberia. Between 1987 and 1996 he would disappear for months at a time into the unimaginable vastness of Siberia. In those days there was limited mobile phone technology and no email. GPS was a military thing, not something for civilians. So
Jan 14, 2009 Jane rated it it was amazing
the book was every bit as good as I’d hoped. To you Russophiles out there: this is a book you definitely must read. To those of you out there with any interest in Russia at all, or with an interest in traveling to remote lands, I recommend this book to you as well. Thubron’s prose is incredible, and throughout the book I found passages describing with incredible accuracy and beauty, things which I had seen during my brief foray into Siberia. His descriptions of the vast, desolate beauty of the S ...more
May 10, 2010 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: big-white-square
Colin writes well, but he’s a bit of a cold fish. He doesn’t ever seem to do anything fun (only once does he take a young woman out for dinner). And so Siberia seems really boring. Perhaps it is? Colin gets involved in religions, goes to underfunded museums and archeological sites, and visits prison camps and mines where thousands died. That’s Colin on his holidays. But it’s not like there isn’t fun stuff happening around him … he passes several Opera Houses. Couldn’t he have caught a show? Some ...more
[3.5] Sometimes ageing seems most stark through objects. I was already an adult when I got this copy new; now the pages are so tanned that it looks like it was printed when I was too young to read anything more complex than Topsy & Tim - the instinctive perception having been formed around the same time I acquired the book. (Likewise books that, in my mind's eye, were nearly new actually look scruffy from moves and storage.) This serves to remind, though, that it's about a Siberia which will ...more
Jul 28, 2013 Gina rated it liked it
I now have an established pattern with Thubron. I get really jazzed to read his book, mostly based on the locations he visits. Then I start the book and think, "This man is a genius, but I would never want to actually travel with him. He's constantly miserable." As I edge toward the end of the book, I very nearly hate him. I finish the book and give it three stars, not four, because he casts a pall of pessimism so heavy that it affects my mood when I'm not even reading. Then, a few months later, ...more
Oct 13, 2014 Anny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
When I started reading this book, I thought I would be reading about the beauty and harshness of nature in Siberia. I thought it couldn't be more depressing than Among the Russians. I was wrong on both count.

This book was about the people who lived in Siberia, and it was even more depressing. Where else would you find a mother who worked for thirty-five years, saving all her pension (around 6000 rubles), only to find that now it amounted to mere two loaves of bread?!

But other Russians would cons
Lord Beardsley
Mar 18, 2008 Lord Beardsley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every living person in the universe
Recommended to Lord by: Kim Le
Shelves: read2008, favorites
I could not recommend this book highly enough. I truly believe everyone should read this. Never once have I really thought about visiting Siberia. Recently, I read Angela Carter's 'Nights at the Circus' in which a large chunk takes place in Siberia and this led to me picking up this book. This book has everything. It is a detailed examination of a land where people have had everything pulled out from underneath them and a land mass that has been totally raped. This book is bleak, yet human and a ...more
Sep 23, 2011 Jan rated it it was amazing
To start with the conclusion - this is great Travel writing. I can hardly imagine that you will be disappointed provided that you have the slightest suspicion that Siberia might interest you.

An important grip in Thumbron's book is to tell his story about Siberia though his meetings with locals and their stories. I belive this grip is one of the secrets behind the sucsess. First Thumbron has made a very good choice of characters to tell their stories. Second he is very good at turning the stories
May 30, 2012 Evelyn rated it liked it
At times I really liked this book, and at other times I really disliked it. The writing was occasionally beautiful: "In between hamlets the grasslands are broken by knolls, where cairns are stuck with the rag-hung poles of an old worship, and herds of black and chestnut horses graze against infinity" (98). The first third of the book was, as the reviews said, "cinematically evocative" and deeply moving. As Thubron moved farther east, though, I began to be repulsed. I sensed pity, condescension, ...more
Richard Newton
Feb 06, 2016 Richard Newton rated it really liked it
Almost unremittingly sad, with just the odd page here and there with even the faintest trace of optimism. Thubron is a brave traveller, and given other stories of the fate of individual travellers in the wild east of Siberia, lucky. This was a wild and dangerous trip, but he survives without too much trouble. In this book he recounts his travels through some of the most desolate places, with the grimmest histories from the darkest periods in soviet history. The book shows cultures and environmen ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Riley rated it liked it
This is the third Russian travelogue I've read recently. It is a genre that I usually don't like all that much, but I enjoyed this book.

Author Colin Thubron offers an interesting and often morose perspective, which is fitting considering the uncertainties and bewilderment of the post-Soviet era in which he visited Siberia. He does a good job splicing the region's history with his own observations and does justice to the horrors of the Gulag.

One passage I highlighted:

"For this is Russia's Elsewh
It would take a thousand-word essay for me to fully capture my feelings towards Thubron's opus. Suffice to say that the nearer I got to the last page, the Iess I wanted to finish the book, and the pace of my reading slowed down significantly in the last 50 pages. I wanted to relish every word, savour every turn of phrase, linger over every poignant description and captured mood.

Sadly, the book is now done but the impression that it made on me will last a long, long time. If there is such a thing
Farah Abdessamad
Mar 04, 2014 Farah Abdessamad rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved "In Siberia". Thubron's journey across this mythical vast land comes at a crucial point in 1999 upon the collapse of the URSS and before the Russian Federation fully emerged. The author, a dear history enthusiast, shares the big picture as well as the more intimate encounters in witty and funny anecdotes. Sometimes, the reality is grimmer, particularly as it relates to the Kolyma camps and the dire situations of ethnic minorities in the Arctic. The reader is submerged by an ev ...more
May 15, 2016 Parvathy rated it really liked it
It's the late '90s in post Soviet Russia. And Thubron spends months traveling around Siberia, that seemingly last frontier in a shrinking planet. He covers a lot of ground physically. The Urals; some of the world's greatest rivers - the Ob, Yenisei, Lena, Amur; the deepest Lake Baikal; the enormous Taiga. He describes encounters with a cross section of people including native Siberians, now just a minority in their vast land. Everyone is struggling, finding the rug pulled out from under their fe ...more
Suzanne Auckerman
Feb 24, 2015 Suzanne Auckerman rated it really liked it
Written in 1999 by a Britsh travel writer (will read more of his books). He traveled via the Tran Siberian railways, but venture out also via bus, private drivers and hitchhiking at times and went far north, past the Artic Circle. His focus was the people and the different ethnic and religious groups. He sought out shamans, the Old Believers, the Jewish settlements, natives, the old labor camps, the Baptist minister that used to work for the KGB, etc. In his book as well as Ian Fraser's, combini ...more
During the Soviet era, much of Siberia was closed off from the West. The Soviets utilized this vast area (which contains nearly a fifth of the worldâs landmass) as the Czars earlier: a place to exile criminals and political prisoners. During the Second World War, industry began to develop in Siberia, far from the reach of Hitlerâs tanks. It is a place of great resourcesâ”minerals, oil, timber, wheatâ”and great hardshipâ”the coldest temperatures ever recorded in inhabited place is in Siberia. Aft ...more
Jun 19, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
My first, and not last, Colin Thubron. He will be high on my list of "travel writers" to read.
He captures the atmosphere well and the fact that he speaks Russian is a testament to his deep interest and understanding in his travels. Given the time that it was written he also did a fair amount of research and planning on the places that he visited.
It's a starkly beautiful place with a starkly brutal history that left tens of millions dead. It's the biggest killing field on the planet in terms of
David Bales
Oct 15, 2014 David Bales rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Outstanding but slightly dated book on Colin Thubron's tour of Siberia in the late 1990s. He went to obscure and notable places alike, finding much despair and dilapidation in post-Soviet Russia, but also great people, generosity and history, meeting religious fanatics, redundant factory workers and miners, the hopeful and the hopeless. A small segment of the late Yeltsin years, nobly done.
Sep 16, 2013 Martinxo rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, 2013
The last chapter of this book is about the Gulag, I always feel choked-up when reading about the Gulag. The rest of the book is also pretty grim and depressing though well worth reading if, like me, you are fascinated by Siberia.
Nov 30, 2009 Gaye rated it it was ok
This was a travelogue type of book of a writer/tourist in Siberia. Makes me realize that Siberia is a place I need never consider as a travel destination.
Aug 19, 2012 Fiona rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-writing
Excellent, intelligent writing as always from Thubron who, for me, approaches his journeys on a much more cerebral level than most travel writers.
May 31, 2016 Margaret rated it really liked it
I read this in preparation for a possible trip on the Trans-Mongolian railway. The trip has had to be abandoned at the moment for a variety of reasons, but reading this has made me think we had a narrow escape. Siberia's history, perilous economic and social conditions, even quite a lot of its landscapes and townscapes, seem unspeakably depressing. I was fascinated by many of the personal encounters Thubron had, and admired his resilience in getting close to the conditions in which many live. I ...more
Mar 13, 2009 Kevin rated it really liked it
Fascinating, honest, and depressing account of contemporary surreal Siberia.
Mar 20, 2014 Laurie rated it liked it
Bleak, bleak, bleak.
Przemek Skoczyński
Co wyróżnia relację Thubrona? Empatia - on współczuje ludziom, czuje żal i złość, czuje smutek wtedy, gdy bohaterowie jego reportażu nie czują już nic, nie obwiniają nikogo, wypierają ze świadomości, że ktoś tu popełnił błąd. To generalnie smutna i mroczna książka o tym jak zmarnowano potencjał Syberii, o niespełnionych marzeniach stworzenia lepszego świata, o tym jak rzeczywistość zweryfikowała nadzieję na postęp, a także o tym jak zdegradowano środowisko tych dziewiczych terenów. Klęska komuni ...more
Peter Ellwood
Jul 12, 2014 Peter Ellwood rated it liked it
Lucky man, to have explored this distant part of the world. As so often though, I found the blurbs on the cover a bit rich. This isn't my book of the year, for sure. It was fascinating to read Thubron's book back-to-back with Piers Vitebsky's "Reindeer People", as the one somehow illuminated the other. Both are about Siberia, but somehow they describe radically different places. I'm not sure Thubron's version emerges all that well from the comparison, and I'm certainly sorry I read Vitebsky firs ...more
Jake Jaqua
Jun 12, 2014 Jake Jaqua rated it it was amazing
I've read three travel books by Thubron, one on Tibet, one of the Silk Road, and this on Siberia, which is the best, although they are all good. Thubron's trek across vast Siberia takes place in the late 90's after the fall of the Soviet Union and people's attempt to deal with the new state of things, which other than the great appreciation of new freedom, is largely unsuccessful. There is much regret of the glory days of Bresnev, when at least there were some jobs. Its a story told mostly thro ...more
Monthly Book Group
Jan 19, 2014 Monthly Book Group rated it really liked it
What did we like? The depth of research Thubron had carried out, and the ease with which he brought it to bear. The gripping vignettes, and the remarkable characters. The black horror of the region he exposed, which, for one at least, exerted a masochistic fascination. The way in which – unlike many other writers in the genre – he did not patronise or ridicule the people he met. The fact that he was not judgmental. The taut, episodic structure, without introduction or conclusion. The intriguing ...more
Nov 26, 2012 Lena rated it really liked it
Colin Thubron's travel writing is the most detailed and informative that I have read. He goes to extremely out-of-the-way places, seeing many facets of Siberia. He meets a wide variety of characters, and visits the homes of individuals and families to give the reader an understanding of what current daily life is like in the many parts of Siberia he visited.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I have always been fascinated by the huge expanse of an area that seems to be essentially blank on maps,
Nov 19, 2013 John rated it liked it
Shelves: non-ficton
First, Colin Thubron is a masterful writer, and just basking in the style of this book was a pleasure. I want to try some of his other books. In a fairly short book, he covers a vast area: along the Trans-Siberian route, up the Yenisei all the way to the Arctic Ocean, even up to northeastern Siberia.

Thubron's made his journey during perhaps the lowest point Russia's post-Communist history: the country, especially its farther reaches, seemed virtually un-governed (unless by local mafia) and econo
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Colin Thubron, CBE FRSL is a Man Booker nominated British travel writer and novelist.

In 2008, The Times ranked him 45th on their list of the 50 greatest postwar British writers. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007
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“Siberia: it fills one twelfth of the land-mass of the whole Earth, yet this is all it leaves for certain in the mind. A bleak beauty, and an indelible fear.” 1 likes
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