In Siberia
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In Siberia

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,145 ratings  ·  84 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 Unio n, 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 ag...more
Paperback, 287 pages
Published 2000 by Penguin (first published 1999)
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Apr 27, 2013 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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
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
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...more
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
Lord Beardsley
Mar 18, 2008 Lord Beardsley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Farah Abdessamad
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
Jake Jaqua
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
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.
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.
Fascinating, honest, and depressing account of contemporary surreal Siberia.
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
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
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...more
Monthly Book Group
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
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,...more
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...more
Colin Thubron's books have been a happy discovery for me this year. It appears there are at least 12 besides the three I've already read, and I just eventually might read them all.
This one is about a journey Thubron took in Siberia in the 1990s. There's a lot to cover: Siberia makes up one-twelfth of the land mass of the Earth. If you're like me, though, you probably thought of only two things when you thought of Siberia: 1. Cold. 2. Soviet gulag.
Those thoughts are accurate as far as they go --...more
This book has been the most useful of my Siberian literature for placing and maneouvring this year's main character from Vladivostok and slowly across Siberia. (She's just made it past Lake Baikal and is revisiting humanity in Irkutsk!) I am avoiding Mongolia as if I were afraid of the Mongol invasion since I'm hesitant to open up my Fairbanks to page through all the Mongolia stuff I know, and there's plenty of Siberia above it.

So I may return this book without detriment I drew a sketch of that...more
A grimmer journey than "Shadow of the Silk Road" because one must confront the enormity of the Soviet work camps, their reality and aftermath - because of Hitler's dominance in people's thought, Stalin's atrocities are relatively overlooked, possibly also because they were carried on out of sight of the West on people outside of Western Europe and America. Still, the author brings Siberia to life, traveling to many out-of-the-way places as well as the main cities, and reading it makes you feel t...more
Rory Armstrong
It took a while to get into this one. The style of writing is different to what I'm used to in travel writing. But after about half way, what writing it was! Thubron has a great style that really describes the places and people of the places he visits. The only weakness was the length, it was far too short! Very recommended for anyone with either at least a minor interest in Siberia, or in quality travel writing.
Siberia, 77% of Russia's land mass. It appears to be an impoverished, vodka-soaked misery. Why don't we improve the situation by spending billions on a winter sports centre in Sochi and sending troops into the Crimea?
Very extremely well-written - so many metaphors and similes and all kinds of literary devices everywhere- it's probably one of the best-written books I've ever read. But best-crafted and most entertaining and stuff? Nah, ntrly. I would say It's a good thing this book is so well-written, because the story is really boring, but I won't say that because it's a very intrestin' story. It's just that I'm unused to travel books (sorry for too much info) and the book doesn't seem consistent enough - jus...more
Dan Coxon
Thubron has always been an old-fashioned kind of travel writer, the sort you'd imagine striding through the jungle with a beat-up pack slung over his back - and In Siberia is no exception. While his travels often lead him to the region's cities he seems most at home in the wilderness, talking to those who scrape by in one of the most inhospitable climates on earth. The book is packed with historical detail too, particularly the labor camps and gulags that litter the Siberian wasteland. While it...more
I read it while I was travelling on the trans-Siberian, so It was the most apropiate book for that journey. A jouney along another journey. Great mix!
A beautifully written, engaging account of an Englishman's travels across Siberia in the mid-1990s. I found the people and places Thubron encountered to be real and very human, if a bit downtrodden and misguided. The Siberia he paints is one haunted by a tragic history, environmental catastrophes, and such social ills as xenophobia/racism, fundamentalist religious zeal, and a refusal to accept modernity and its positives and negatives. As we have seen in the year 2013, Russia as country has spir...more
This was my first Colin Thubron book but it will certainly not be my last. Thubron is a wonderful travel writer, one of the best I've read. His style is both lyrical and understated, a hard feat to pull off. I followed him with great interest across the many miles and adventures of his Siberian journey. I will not, however, be following his footsteps, literally. There's a reason why Siberia is a synonym for vast desolation. And here I, who love cold and snowy places, had entertained an idea of g...more
Keith Slade
Great travel / history book about a big area in Siberia. The English author went there on his own just after the breakup of the USSR and talked to many local people. I loved his writing style too. Very fun book to read, but some of the topics are dark (prison camps, etc.). I plan on reading more by this author.
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From Wikipedia: Colin Gerald Dryden Thubron, CBE is a British travel writer and novelist.
More about Colin Thubron...
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