LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Shadow of the Silk Road


by Colin Thubron.

Colin Thubron travels along the ancient silk road, from the east of China to Turkey, via Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, northern Iran, and Turkey. He visits ancient monuments, often eliciting the help of locals to reach all-but lost ruins, far off the beaten track.

Thubron’s narrative is the non-fiction equivalent of Dickens, and it took a lot of wading to get through his expressive, but extremely dense descriptions. I most enjoyed his interactions with local people, which gave a far better sense of place than flowery descriptions of crumbling tombs (so many tombs). His privilege and personal attitude leaks through his writing (which I found distracting), but not in a boastful way.

I enjoyed the journey well enough, but I’m not inspired to read any of Colin Thubron’s other books.

(A note about production quality – I love the cover design but, despite the care I take of my books, the lamination on my paperback copy quickly began peeling off, leaving an annoying length of detached plastic, and unprotected edge. This hasn’t affected my rating.)


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