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Shadow of the Silk Road (P.S.) Paperback – July 1, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his latest absorbing travel epic, Thubron (In Siberia; Mirror to Damascus) follows the course—or at least the general drift—of the ancient network of trade routes that connected central China with the Mediterranean Coast, traversing along the way several former Soviet republics, war-torn Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. The author travels third-class all the way, in crowded, stifling railroad cars and rattle-trap buses and cars, staying at crummy inns or farmers' houses, subject to shakedowns by border guards and constant harassment—even quarantine—by health officials hunting the SARS virus. Physically, these often monotonously arid, hilly regions of Central Asia tend to go by in a swirl of dun-colored landscapes studded with Buddha shrines in varying states of repair or ruin, but Thubron's poetic eye still teases out gorgeous subtleties in the panorama. Certain themes also color his offbeat encounters with locals—most of them want to get the hell out of Central Asia—but again he susses out the infinite variety of ordinary misery. The conduit by which an entire continent exchanged its commodities, cultures and peoples—Thubron finds traces of Roman legionaries and mummies of Celtic tribesmen in western China—the Silk Road becomes for him an evocative metaphor for the mingling of experiences and influences that is the essence of travel. (July 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Colin Thubron has spent a lifetime exploring Asia, and he displays his significant regional knowledge and experience in Shadow of the Silk Road. Universally acknowledged as one of our best living travel writers, Thubron brings to this book the astute perception for which he is known and the beautiful prose style he has honed for more than 40 years; what is even more impressive, however, is the incredible sense of enthusiasm he brings both to his journey and to his writing. As Jonathan Yardley wrote in the Washington Post, "Colin Thubron [is an] intrepid, resourceful and immensely talented writer who has made a career out of going to out of the way places and then writing brilliantly about them." Shadow of the Silk Road is Thubron at his best.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231773
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Silk Road was the 2,000-year-old route used for trade between vastly different cultures of ancient China and ancient Rome and all points in between. It was never one simple road, more a knot of roads, with the traders taking side routes based on the markets or on the weather. Of course, it does not exist now, but in _Shadow of the Silk Road_ (Chatto and Windus), British author Colin Thubron relates his trace of the route. Thubron has written many books before of his wanderings in Russia, Siberia, and China, and this one is beautifully written, with descriptions of sites that few other tourists are going ever to see and encounters with people like Hunan traders, Uzbek prostitutes, or Buddhist monks. The significance of the Silk Road is merely historical, but many of the regions through which Thubron travels, despite their generally blighted aspects, are important within today's headlines. Thubron started his 7,000-mile travels in 2003, the year that America and Britain invaded Iraq, and indeed he had to take a break because of fighting in Afghanistan. He had to resume his journey the next year. It is impossible to say how representative his "man-on-the-street" conversations are, taking individuals from once-great societies who have been subject to wrenching change especially in the last few decades, but he is generally treated genially, often generously, even by those who object to his nation's endeavors in Iraq.

The Silk Road gets its name from the most frequent and exotic of goods traded on it east-to-west, though the term comes from historians looking at the trade from the vantage of the nineteenth century. The history of the route is enticing and glamorous, perhaps more so for our viewing it from such a distant time.
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Format: Hardcover
I traveled the same roads, and shared many of the same experiences, but I was there in search of specific historical events. The sights, sounds, smells were pushed aside and not allowed to register and interfere with my 'priorities'. I missed so much and this is why I wanted to read this book and see the journey through the eyes of another traveler.

I could not speak much about personal memories. I wanted to but I have never known how I would describe a Tibetan waif in Katmandu or shepherds along the KKH (Karokarum Highway). And if I could, I could not have done so as eloquently as Colin Thubron. I had to read this book to see through his eyes what I may have missed, and he made me realize that I missed a lot. Or is it simply that he is such a masterful writer?

Seeing it all again through his eyes has been a deeply beautiful experience for me, full of nostalgia. I found myself gazing wistfully off the pages and back to yesterday's horizons with an undescribable longing.
He captured it all beautifully and probably just in time because it is changing at lightning speed.

Kudos, my fellow traveler, kudos for the joy and understanding your picture words bring to us all.

Suzanne Olsson
New York
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book hoping to get a good idea of what the people and places are like along The Silk Road. This book has some very interesting interviews with people along the way, but after a while, it these become less frequent and the book is more about "I came here and saw this. It looked like this. It made me feel like this, then I left and went here." I could have bought another book with pictures of the Silk Road and been better off in this regard. To me, the best part of the book was what he learned talking to people. Unfortunately, that makes up only a small part of his journey.
Not a bad book, and I don't have regrets buying it, but I did start to look forward to finishing it so I could move on to the next one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Colin Thubron's beautiful prose details his journey through modern Asia along the ancient Silk Road from China to the Mediterranean. He passes through China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey and describes the history, cultures and people along the way.

Thubron is, in my opinion, the most elegant living travel writer in the English language. His previous books include several like (The Lost Heart of Asia), that overlap this same area recounting travels in this area over the last 30 years.

The Silk Road is the trading corridor that went from China to the Mediterranean. Silk was one of the main products traded and gave its name to this road system. Other accounts include Marco Polo (highly recommended before reading this book), the Muslim traveller Ibn BattutaThe Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century, Robert Byron's travels The Road to Oxiana and several others whose accounts I found less penetrating.

Importantly, Thubron travels alone - a necessity for good travel writing because those who travel in groups inevitably turn to commentary on their pathetic companions rather than the country through which they are travelling. These accounts like "A Walk in the Woods"
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