Colin Thubron Criticism - Essay

Olga Semenova (review date 21 October 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Semenova, Olga. “Top to Bottom.” New Statesman 106, no. 2744 (21 October 1983): 23.

[In the following review, Semenova examines what Among the Russians and Roy Medvedev's All Stalin's Men reveal about contemporary Russian society.]

[Roy Medvedev and Colin Thubron] create a picture of Soviet society by examining some of the individuals who compose it. But they look at this society from opposite ends. The sharp contrast between these two accounts illustrates one of the more serious problems now facing the Soviet leadership.

In All Stalin's Men, Roy Medvedev describes the careers of six of those who rose to prominence in...

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Fitzroy Maclean (review date 7 July 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Maclean, Fitzroy. “The Earth Mother.” Spectator 252, no. 8139 (7 July 1984): 27.

[In the following excerpt, Maclean discusses Thubron's examination of Russian culture in Among the Russians.]

Colin Thubron's latest book, Among the Russians, can only serve to enhance his well-deserved reputation. I enjoyed every page of it. It is well observed, well written and, unlike many books about Russia, gives proof of an unusual and penetrating insight into the character of the country and people. Having long been fascinated by Russia, the author learned Russian and, climbing into his Morris Marina, set out to explore it, covering about 10,000 miles in the process. Not everyone realises that, despite the machinations of what he aptly calls ‘a jungly and unconquerable bureaucracy,’ it is perfectly possible to do this.

During his journey, Mr Thubron made a number of important discoveries, not least that the Second World War so haunts the Russian consciousness that no understanding of Russia is possible without it. He also discovered, as he motored across it, the immense size of the Russian plain, its psychological effect on the Russians and their close attachment to their country's soil. ‘From her own people,’ he writes, ‘Russia elicits a helpless worship of belonging … She contains them with the elemental despotism of an earth mother.’ With this he rightly links the average Russian's almost mystical sense of patriotism, now coming (and being brought) increasingly to the fore. ‘The old Russian belief in an apocalyptic history continues: history with a divine purpose,’ a persistent belief, in other words, in Russia's God- or Marx-given mission to enlighten and, if necessary, discipline a naughty world. ‘The tradition of all the dead generations,’ wrote Karl Marx, ‘weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.’ Of few countries, as Marx would have been the first to agree, is this truer than of Russia.

Sharon Dirlam (review date 6 October 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dirlam, Sharon. Review of A Cruel Madness, by Colin Thubron. Los Angeles Times Book Review (6 October 1985): 22.

[In the following review, Dirlam offers a positive assessment of A Cruel Madness, praising the novel as “gripping tale of passion.”]

[In A Cruel Madness,] the calm voice of a rational man tells the story of his quiet life with all the drama of dry sticks rubbing together, rubbing, rubbing, until there's spark, a trail of smoke, a flicker, and the next thing you know you are surrounded by the fire of his passionate obsession. There are clues along the way that the story will slip from normalcy, the “spasms of recognition” of a man who sees his beloved 10 years after their brief affair, the “absurd desolation” he feels when she slips away again. Thubron has a gift for description (as one would expect of an award-winning travel writer): “Every wall of the hospital is lacerated with fire escapes,” or, “In early morning, when the mist steals off the hills, and round the hospital, you might imagine the whole institution underwater and its giant trees turned to seaweeds.” The narrator seems to be telling you the facts, but you slowly realize that all may not be as it seems to him. Sophia, his lover, may be a patient in the Welsh lunatic asylum where much of the tale unfolds. The narrator, Daniel, may be a volunteer worker there, as he says. Thubron stirs the muddy waters of passion to the point where reality and delusion are but different sides of the same occurrence, where reason and paranoia coexist. And the underwater imagery gives poetic voice to the dissolution of Daniel's world. This isn't just another novel about madness and despair. It is a gripping tale of passion, however misspent, and the failure of an entire set of characters to come to grips with life seems not as distant from “normal” as one might think, but simply a look deeper into the mind than most of us dare to probe. Thubron is incurably curious, in his investigations of human depths as well as in his travels around the world, and the results are spellbinding.

Gail Pool (review date 8 September 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pool, Gail. Review of Where Nights Are Longest, by Colin Thubron. Christian Science Monitor 79, no. 199 (8 September 1987): 21-2

[In the following excerpt, Pool notes that Where Nights Are Longest does not present a flattering portrait of the Soviet Union.]

“Nobody from the West enters the Soviet Union without prejudice,” says Colin Thubron at the start of Where Nights Are Longest. “But I think I wanted to know and embrace this enemy I had inherited.”

To a large degree, Thubron's journey through Russia is an exploration of attitudes, the Soviets' and his own. It would be nice to report that he discovered that his...

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Hilary Mantel (review date 1 October 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mantel, Hilary. Review of Behind the Wall, by Colin Thubron. London Review of Books 9, no. 17 (1 October 1987): 21.

[In the following excerpt, Mantel praises Behind the Wall for its ability to portray Chinese society in a manner that makes sense to readers.]

Colin Thubron is a gifted and accomplished travel writer, whose book Among the Russians has been described as one of the best travel books written this century. To him the opening-up of China was ‘like discovering a new room in a house in which you'd lived all your life.’ He is a perceptive and honest traveller [in Behind the Wall,] aware of the burden of his own...

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Francis X. Rocca (review date January 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rocca, Francis X. Review of Behind the Wall: A Journey through China, by Colin Thubron. American Spectator 22, no. 1 (January 1989): 44.

[In the following excerpt, Rocca compares Behind the Wall with Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster, noting the unique ways that the authors describe their journeys through China.]

Here is the first literary fruit of the new access to China: [Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux and Behind the Wall by Colin Thubron,] two first-person accounts of solitary travel on the mainland. The authors are prominent, and both divide their careers as novelists and travel writers. Paul Theroux, the...

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John K. Fairbank (review date 16 March 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fairbank, John K. “Keeping Up with the New China.” New York Review of Books 36, no. 4 (16 March 1989): 17-20.

[In the following excerpt, Fairbank discusses Thubron's first-person account of his travels through China in Behind the Wall.]

Another approach to China's current transformation is to go and poke about in it, registering one's personal impressions. First-person travel accounts, naturally limited in scope, give us what truth the writer can offer. David Kidd's sometimes charming reminiscences [in Peking Story] recall the Peking so loved by foreign aesthetes before Mao destroyed it. Kidd, age twenty, taught English and studied art in Peking...

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Gloria Bien (review date 1 April 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bien, Gloria. Review of Behind the Wall, by Colin Thubron. America 160, no. 12 (1 April 1989): 300.

[In the following excerpt, Bien offers a positive assessment of Behind the Wall, praising its humor and poetic prose.]

Colin Thubron's Behind the Wall presents a personal meeting of China and the West through his own experience. Born in London, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, author of two novels and several travel books, Thubron learned Mandarin before beginning his solitary journey through China. Carrying only a rucksack and traveling by train, bus and plane, in autumn and early winter 1985, he encountered and conversed with a...

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Karen Gernant (review date May 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gernant, Karen. Review of Behind the Wall, by Colin Thubron. Journal of Asian Studies 48, no. 2 (May 1989): 377-79.

[In the following review, Gernant argues that Behind the Wall does a better job of furthering the Westerner's understanding of China than Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster.]

Both [Behind the Wall by Colin Thubron and Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux] are accounts of relatively short journeys in China and are meant for general readers. Colin Thubron's book is an authentic, balanced depiction of China—and of an outsider's struggle to understand. He brings to his journey a probing but sensitive curiosity, as...

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Peter Reading (review date 8 September 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Reading, Peter. “Ethical Feats.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4510 (8 September 1989): 968.

[In the following negative review, Reading criticizes Falling, calling the novel “not particularly original.”]

Colin Thubron's very short new novel, Falling, is concise rather than concentrated. It tells the story of Mark Swabey (No. 63176), formerly a journalist on the Hampshire Times, who recalls his history from inside prison, where he is serving a sentence for manslaughter. The events leading to Swabey's incarceration are these: he jettisons his steady girlfriend Katherine, an artist and maker of stained-glass windows, so that he may...

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Anita Brookner (review date 16 September 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Brookner, Anita. “Of Love and Death.” Spectator 263, no. 8410 (16 September 1989): 43.

[In the following review, Brookner discusses the theme of obsessive love in Falling.]

The obsessive love affair used to inspire more novels than it does today, as if obsessive love were the one commodity that our consumer society could not afford. Colin Thubron dealt with such an affair most effectively in his last novel, A Cruel Madness, and he returns to the theme here [in Falling], giving it a new dimension of strangeness. Yet what emerges from both novels is the very old-fashioned Romantic notion that love and death occupy the same mysterious terrain,...

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Stephen Wall (review date 28 September 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wall, Stephen. “Going to Bed with an Author on Your Reading List.” London Review of Books 11, no. 18 (28 September 1989): 18.

[In the following excerpt, Wall offers a mixed assessment of Falling, but asserts that the novel consistently maintains its momentum.]

Colin Thubron's hero [in Falling] has to do with falling in a physical and, more vaguely, metaphysical sense. Mark Swabey is in prison for a crime whose actual nature isn't revealed until near the end of this terse tale, but which is connected with his passion for Clara, a trapeze artist of unusual grace and daring.

As a journalist, he is fascinated by the extent to...

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John Gittings (review date 1990-91)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gittings, John. Review of Behind the Wall, by Colin Thubron. Third World Quarterly 12, nos. 3-4 (1990-91): 173-75.

[In the following review, Gittings compares Behind the Wall with Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster.]

Even a good travel book about China—and [Behind the Wall by Colin Thubron and Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux] are much more than travel books—now has to be measured against the grim standard of Tiananmen Square. Did Colin Thubron, or Paul Theroux, both exploring from north to south two or three years before the Beijing massacre, somehow grasp the key in one of their casual but profound conversations on...

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Tim Gooderham (review date 6 September 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gooderham, Tim. “Flight Away from Danger.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4614 (6 September 1991): 21.

[In the following review, Gooderham argues that Turning Back the Sun and Falling are both examples of how Thubron “is one of the current masters of the short novel.”]

Colin Thubron's novels are concerned with emotional extremes; in Turning Back the Sun, his latest, he frames those extremes within the geographical and cultural oppositions which are familiar from his travel writing. Like its predecessor, Falling (1989), this book is pivoted on a difficult choice; though, here, the choice involves a flight away from danger and...

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Neroli Lawson (review date 18 October 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lawson, Neroli. “Face Values.” New Statesman and Society 120, no. 4055 (18 October 1991): 36.

[In the following review, Lawson criticizes Turning Back the Sun, calling the work “shallow” and “crude.”]

If you are fond of Colin Thubron, do not spoil it by reading this novel [Turning Back the Sun]. It has some dense, elliptical prose and some fertile imagery. But these fine patches only show up the rest as pedestrian and obvious.

The story concerns white men's ignorance and hostility, out in frontier country, towards native blacks. Rayner, our white hero, espouses the black cause. The moral crisis is illustrated by...

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Betty Abel (review date February 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Abel, Betty. Review of Turning Back the Sun, by Colin Thubron. Contemporary Review 260, no. 1513 (February 1992): 101-03.

[In the following excerpt, Abel offers a positive assessment of Turning Back the Sun.]

In Colin Thubron's remarkably imaginative novel, Turning Back the Sun, the two places which he recreates are unreal but at the same time impressively realistic. Existing in an unidentified country, they possess characteristically Australian attributes with alien overtones of political coercion in terms of pass laws and work permits. A shabby, dry frontier town is the centre of the action but the capital city which we never visit is fertile in...

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Dervla Murphy (review date 24 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Murphy, Dervla. “Not Only the Past, Brittle with Relics.” Spectator 273, no. 8672 (24 September 1994): 44.

[In the following review, Murphy praises Thubron's insight and attention to detail in The Lost Heart of Asia.]

Yes, they said, they were Yagnobski. They all spoke Sogdian in the home, young and old, and had inherited the language from their parents, by ear … I listened almost in disbelief. This, I told myself, was the last, distorted echo of the battle-cries shouted 2500 years ago by the armies of the Great Kings at Marathon and Thermopylae, all that remained from the chant of Zoroastrian priests or the pleas of Persian satraps to...

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Scott Malcomson (review date 30 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Malcomson, Scott. “Game Park for Hominids.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4774 (30 September 1994): 26.

[In the following review, Malcomson compliments the prose in The Lost Heart of Asia, but argues that Thubron does not have an adequate grasp of Central Asian history.]

Colin Thubron is among the most exemplary of contemporary Western travel writers, and his new book, The Lost Heart of Asia, which relates his travels through the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, should further his already considerable reputation. He brings special gifts to the task, wielding an athletic and sprightly vocabulary (now I have “ondine,”...

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Molly Mortimer (review date June 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mortimer, Molly. “A Writer Who Travels.” Contemporary Review 266, no. 1553 (June 1995): 334-35.

[In the following review, Mortimer praises Thubron's “picturesque prose” in The Lost Heart of Asia.]

There are travellers who write and writers who travel. Between them lies a river of reality. Colin Thubron belongs to the second class. He is no Thessiger or Post. He has an excellent mixture [in The Lost Heart of Asia] as before which teases out into gobbets of history and chats with the natives, heavily larded with epithet and adjective of which he has a large and original variety; and uses deftly. But like an over rich cake, scintillation can sicken...

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Bill Peters (review date October 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Peters, Bill. Review of The Lost Heart of Asia, by Colin Thubron. Asian Affairs 26, no. 3 (October 1995): 323-24.

[In the following review, Peters examines Thubron's exploration of the role of Islam in Central Asia in The Lost Heart of Asia.]

This reisebeschreibung [The Lost Heart of Asia] is a worthy addition to Colin Thubron's already substantial and distinguished corpus on his expeditions in Asia. His journey began with a flight across the Caspian and the Karakum to Ashkhabad, and ended near Torugart in the east of Kyrgystan beyond Lake Issyk Kul on the western border of Xinjiang. It was made during the first spring and summer after the...

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Anthony Quinn (review date 15 September 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Anthony. Review of Distance, by Colin Thubron. Observer (15 September 1996): 15.

[In the following review, Quinn criticizes the “implausibilities” in Distance, but notes that the novel does keep the reader engaged.]

The metaphor twinkling over Colin Thubron's new novel [Distance] feels almost too perfect a fit for his stricken narrator. Edward, an edgy young astronomer, has been pursuing research into black holes: ‘The ghosts that haunt our universe … the core of massive stars that have died, collapsed in on themselves aeons ago and shrunk to nuggets of near infinite density.’ Somewhere in the course of his studies,...

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Oliver Reynolds (review date 20 September 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Reynolds, Oliver. “Speaking Subjectively.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4877 (20 September 1996): 23.

[In the following review, Reynolds discusses Thubron's use of scientific concepts in Distance.]

Edward Sanders, the narrator of Colin Thubron's sixth novel, Distance, is doing postgraduate research into black holes. At the start of the novel, he has lost his short-term memory: “The first thing I notice is the hand resting on the tablecloth. It is lean, almost delicate. I move it a little, to be sure it is mine.” By the end, he has remembered the shocking events which provoked his amnesia, and the book's structure, alternating present and past,...

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David Montrose (review date 21 September 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Montrose, David. “And If Thou Wilt, Remember.” Spectator 277, no. 8775 (21 September 1996): 54.

[In the following review, Montrose argues that Distance is not as strong as Thubron's previous novel, A Cruel Madness.]

The protagonists of Colin Thubron's more recent novels—A Cruel Madness (1984), Falling (1989), and Turning Back the Sun (1991)—were tormented by that ambivalent mixture, memory and desire. Each hankered after the irretrievable: a lost time, a lost woman. At the start of Distance, Thubron's narrator has lost even remembrance of such things. Edward Sanders, a 30-ish astronomer, emerges from a fugue state to...

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Guy Mannes-Abbott (review date 2 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mannes-Abbott, Guy. “Return to the Wild East.” Independent (2 October 1999): 9.

[In the following review, Mannes-Abbott argues that Thubron's descriptions of natural landscapes in In Siberia are “exceptional.”]

In the early 1980s, Colin Thubron drove his Morris Marina across the Western face of Brezhnev's bankrupt Soviet Union. His account of that visit, Among the Russians, began “I had been afraid of Russia ever since I could remember.” Although that predictable Western apprehension melted during encounters with the Russians themselves, he was chased out of the country by the KGB.

In that first account, Siberia was...

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Nicholas Harman (review date 9 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Harman, Nicholas. “Vodka, Vodka Everywhere.” Spectator 283, no. 8931 (9 October 1999): 45.

[In the following review, Harman examines Thubron's search for religious faith in In Siberia.]

Under tsars and dictators alike, only Russians were allowed into Siberia, and for Russians the trip was a fate worse than death. Since we won the Cold War all that is changed, and Colin Thubron went there off his own bat. He too found Siberia horrible. It was hard to get around, hard to find somewhere to sleep, hard to find anyone to talk to, harder still to keep warm. But that was not his main problem [in In Siberia].

The myth of travel books is...

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Ian Thomson (review date 9 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thomson, Ian. “A Thaw in the Gulag: Where Has the KGB Gone?” Guardian (9 October 1999): 10.

[In the following review, Thomson offers a positive assessment of In Siberia, calling it Thubron's “finest achievement to date.”]

Colin Thubron brings back few souvenirs of his solitary wanderings, but his notebooks are crammed with life stories. From these he fashions a meticulous reportage tinged with poetry. His two wonderful accounts of communist Russia and China—Among the Russians and Behind the Wall—narrated the lives of ordinary people trapped beneath the crust of dictatorship. Classics of the genre, they were written with an...

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Colin Thubron and Independent Sunday (interview date 10 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thubron, Colin, and Independent Sunday. Independent Sunday (10 October 1999): 2.

[In the following interview, Thubron discusses his body of work and his career as a travel writer.]

It almost comes as a shock to discover that Colin Thubron is a real traveller. From his writings, it is possible to imagine a kind of poetic aristocrat floating across continents, absorbing beauty and wisdom effortlessly from clouds and landscapes. In fact, he is the ultimate off-the-beaten-track backpacker.

“When I'm researching for a book, I'm not fussed about comfort,” Thubron explains when I ask him how he sustains himself on his journeys. Now 60, he...

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Matthew Reisz (review date 24 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Reisz, Matthew. “Where Time Goes in Circles.” Independent Sunday (24 October 1999): 12.

[In the following review, Reisz discusses the disillusionment and lack of hope that Thubron describes in In Siberia.]

In parts of Eastern Siberia, writes Colin Thubron [in In Siberia], the “snow-glazed desolation” of the forest is “over a thousand miles deep from north to south, and the suffocating closeness of its trees, crowding out all distances, any perspective, has driven people literally mad. Magnetic anomalies can doom even a sane traveller here, while his compass-point swings uselessly.” Much of this astonishing book evokes a world so vast, so...

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David Pryce-Jones (review date 20 December 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pryce-Jones, David. “From Fear to Pity.” National Review 51, no. 24 (20 December 1999): 64-6.

[In the following review, Pryce-Jones examines the change in Thubron's attitude toward Russia between Among the Russians and In Siberia.]

Colin Thubron first visited the Soviet Union at the height of its powers, in the closing years of the Brezhnev era. Among the Russians, the travel book he then wrote, begins with the unforgettable sentence, “I had been afraid of Russia ever since I could remember.” It was an appropriate Cold War response. The Russians were then a universal menace. Whatever were they asking of themselves, and of us? How could...

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Colin Thubron and Gayle Feldman (interview date 28 February 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thubron, Colin, and Gayle Feldman. “The Art of Traveling Well.” Publishers Weekly 217, no. 9 (28 February 2000): 54-5.

[In the following interview, Thubron discusses how he became a travel writer and how he approaches his work.]

Not all travel writers travel equally well from one side of the Atlantic to the other, even if the subtlety of their observations and seductiveness of their words argue that they should.

The name Colin Thubron resonates far less in America than the names of British and American peers such as Jonathan Raban, Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, Jan Morris or the late Bruce Chatwin. Yet in his native England the long, lanky...

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Michael Skube (review date 7 May 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Skube, Michael. “The Silence of Siberia.” Atlanta Journal Constitution (7 May 2000): L14.

[In the following review, Skube offers a brief overview of Thubron's career and discusses In Siberia.]

WASHINGTON

The image had haunted him, even as a schoolboy.

Pale green on the map that covered the classroom wall, distorted by Mercator's projection, Russia sprawled across 11 time zones and two continents.

“I'd been afraid of Russia ever since I could remember,” Colin Thubron wrote 20 years ago. “Where other nations—Japan, Brazil, India—clamored with imagined scents and colors, Russia gave out...

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Ben Downing (review date June 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Downing, Ben. Review of In Siberia, by Colin Thubron. New Criterion 18, no. 10 (June 2000): 82-4.

[In the following review, Downing argues that In Siberia is an inferior sequel to Thubron's Among the Russians.]

Rudolph, Dasher, Blitzen, and the rest don't come around Potalovo much anymore. The village, located north of the Arctic Circle, was bullied into restyling itself as a reindeer collective in Krushchev's day, but since then the animals' pastures have been killed off by acid rain.

Near Vladivostok, a woman complains that, of the salary owed her husband the previous year, one-half of it went ignored altogether and the other...

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Colin Thubron and Nicholas Wroe (interview date 23 September 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thubron, Colin, and Nicholas Wroe. “Don't Forget Your Toothbrush: A Life in Writing.” Guardian (23 September 2000): 11.

[In the following interview, Thubron discusses his body of work and his career as a travel writer.]

According to travel writer and novelist Colin Thubron, the publishing industry made an exciting discovery in the mid-1970s. “They realised that travel writing could also be literature,” he says, “which was of course very fortunate for my generation. Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, Jonathan Raban and myself were hyper-praised for a while. All that has now slightly faded, but I do think that travel writing is still in a healthy state.”...

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John de Falbe (review date 13 July 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: de Falbe, John. “Haunted by the Incas.” Spectator 289, no. 9075 (13 July 2002): 39.

[In the following positive review, de Falbe praises the “marvellous vividness” of To the Last City.]

Colin Thubron's reputation as a travel writer is so high (and deservedly so) that his novels often get forgotten in discussions of his work. This is a shame because they are extremely good, and because the two bodies of work illuminate one another. To the Last City, Thubron's new novel, is a characteristically delicate, artful construction, which has at its core an interior journey that is signalled firmly in the opening sentences:

...

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William Skidelsky (review date 29 July 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Skidelsky, William. “Novel Thoughts.” New Statesman 131, no. 4598 (29 July 2002): 39.

[In the following review, Skidelsky offers a mixed assessment of To the Last City, comparing it to Phillip Marsden's The Main Cages and Yann Martel's Life of Pi.]

In an interview a few years ago, Julian Barnes explained why it had taken him eight years to complete his semi-autobiographical first novel, Metroland. For too long, he felt constrained by the facts of his own life as they had happened. Even though he was writing a novel, he still didn't feel entirely free to invent. Only on realising that the truth was his to embellish had the novel finally...

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