Monday, May 09, 2022

Book: Colin Thubron's "The Amur River: Between Russia And China"

I have always been a fan of travel logs.  I have read two other travel logs written by Colin Thubron - one I really liked, one not so much.  My latest read, Colin Thubron's "The Amur River: Between Russia and China" falls somewhere in between.

The book follows the author's travels along the Amur river that separates Russia and China.  The river has changes names a few times before becoming the Amur.  The journey starts in Mongolia where swampy water comes together to form the headwaters of the river. The travels continues to the Russian side, to the Chinese side, before returning to the Russian side.

On the Russian side life is bleak, stuck between Stalinist Soviet Union, Putin's modern Russia, and national neglect.  On the Chinese side life seems full of progress and hope for the future.  On both sides mistrust for the other side abounds.  Several times he thought his travels would end when encountering Russian police.  Frankly, it seemed he was constantly on edge while travelling in Russia.

I am used to travel writing full of awe and respect for what the travel sees and the people they meet.  Thubron's writing is a bit dreary which I think is a result of traveling in Russia (he has traveled there many times).  Other people I know who have traveled to Russia have commented to me about how rough and dower the people feel.  This explains a lot about the atmosphere of the book.

The Wife and I once wanted to take the Trans-Siberian train across Russia.  I'm not sure how likely that will ever be.  With the war and the condition Russia is in, it is very unlikely we will ever see it.

Despite the dreariness of it all, I liked the book.  The people of Siberia have been neglected by Russia but they still scrape by and there is still some looking to make something of themselves.  I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I might have given it a three and a half if it let me.  Thubron came across tired but he still brought the people he met on his travels to life.

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