After two and a half years as NPR’s Moscow bureau chief, David Greene travels across the country - a 6,000 mile journey by rail, from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok - to speak with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. Reaching beyond the headline-grabbing protests in Moscow, Green speaks with a group of singing babushkas from Buranovo, a teenager hawking “space rocks” from last spring’s meteor shower in Chelyabinsk, and activists battling for environmental regulation in the pollution-choked town of Baikalsk. Through the stories of fellow travelers, Greene explores the challenges and opportunities facing the new Russia: a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity yet still continues to endure oppression, corruption, and stark inequality.
Set against the wintery landscape of Siberia, Greene’s lively travel narrative offers a glimpse into the soul of 20th century Russia: how its people remember their history and look forward to the future.
©2014 David Greene. Recorded by arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company. (P)2014 HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books.
The cadence, inflection and timing of the narration by the author is exactly the same style as short reports often heard on NPR. This style is fine in small news reports but for almost 8 hours it becomes tedious. Further, it made each clipped story of injustice, criminal behavior, and maltreatment sound completely the same.
I found the book to be a simple retelling of loosely connected events in a news reporter style with little or no insight or personal feeling and texture drawn into the telling. These are discouraging and sad stories. After three hours, listening became totally unbearable and even boring. What's more, several of the events addressed in this book are things I know about, and I have watched moving documentaries covering the stories in rich detail. Green's retelling of these same events was dry and soul-less. To me this is a relentlessly unhappy book that I can't finish or recommend.
Insightful, moving, relevant
You meet so many marvelous Russian individuals, but the favorite character who emerges is modern Russia, herself.
In 2007 I spent 3 months in Russia as an American with little prior understanding of the country, and this book vividly brought back many feelings from that time. I was so grateful to recognize what I had seen and felt while there in a fellow traveler's experience. I recognized the culture-shock, and realization that there is this vast nation on the other side of the world about which most of us know very little, and that these people have a history and point of view that is unique and completely fascinating. It was very moving.
David Greene captures so many elements of the culture, from confusing idiosyncrasies of day-to-day Russian life, to a deeper, insidious mindset that holds fast to a nation of people beaten down by decades (or centuries, really) of political repression. By travelling via third class railway tickets across the country, Greene offers a unique perspective that cannot be found by studying Russian history or following the news. You learn about the state of humanity in this nation. While watching the development of post-soviet Russia from afar, it can be completely perplexing for a westerner to grasp such things as Putin's high approval rating, or a wave of seemingly anti-democratic, anti-western sentiment from the country. This book helps make sense of a nation of people who have been closed to America for so much of the 20th century, and it's incredibly relevant for any American who wants to better understand who those people are.
Good insights into the Russian fatalistic state of Mind. I am third generation American, with a western Ukrainian Jewish background but I can see the traces of those fatalistic sensibilities in my families genes.
Although the editor did not catch a few grammatical or geographical errors, Such as The Pyong Yang restaurant in Vladivovstok being a propaganda tool of South Korea. In spite of a few other verbal faux pas David Greene has a wonderful voice and is an accomplished writer. He succeeded with his democratic look at an people favoring an autocracy, the type of government it has been their lot historically. As my beloved Ukrainian Grandmother would say "if a worm has only known horseradish. How can it dream of an
His end note about the people simply craving a group to identify with, was a great insight. This feeling resonates after my own experiences with Russians, either as expats or in my travels in Russia or other parts of the world.
I loved this book. Greene's narration of his story on the train is very vivid
This expose of life in post-Soviet Russia and Siberia was insightful and very interesting to listen to. The interviews of real people who had dealt with both fortunate and unfortunate events in their lives showed a true picture of the Russian people I have gotten to know in 20 years working as a Russian translator and teacher. I, myself, hope to replicate the author's journey across Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad seeing the sights and meeting the people described herein, and this book will serve as an excellent travel guide for my trip.
Unfortunately, in trying to remain true to the author's perspective, he chose to narrate the book himself. Even though Greene is an excellent NPR personality, his narration seemed hurried and in some areas, confusing. Instead of letting the words express the feelings he meant to share, he relied too much on his enunciation and speech to convey excitement or anxiety. There were a few places throughout where the author also repeated sentences that were missed in the editing process. It would have been better to hire a professional audiobook narrator to share this interesting story of a journey most of us will never have the fortune to experience.
Overall, the story is worth listening to and I will be recommending it to my fellow Russophiles so that they can share in this wonderful story.
I am a young-executive with a voracious appetite for great stories. I read and listen constantly, and am very proud of my book collection.
Mr. Greene believes in his work--demonstrating a sincere love and respect for the Russian people in this travel log meets cultural expose.
This tale of a foreigner in a strange land, a fish out of water, is balanced with sincere insights into the Russian Character from the objective pencil of a reporter.
This book was a pleasant listen, and I learned a lot about what average Russians struggle, hope, and fear each day. I admire more than ever this complex culture and its epic struggles both past and present.
You will enjoy this book! It is calm, delightful, and packed with unexpected insights.
It may have helped that we are in the middle of a cold snap just now, but I feel like I have been in Siberia. I am a student of ww2 history and and it's Soviet aftermath so I especially enjoyed this book and will continue to ponder the troubling questions posed by the author for a long time.
In the meantime, I have vicariously partaken of the food, the sites, the music and the stories of these extrodinary people. While listening to this book, I stayed busy online following our progress, watching you tube videos of the singing Babushkas, and reading recipes for borsht.
If you cried (or maybe just had a tear in your eyes) during the recent Olympics for the conflicting emotions of joy for these people, hatred for their system and what it has done to them and pride for their perserverence, then you will enjoy this book.
Truly, Mr Greene, 5 plus weeks on the train and only a 7 hour book? I would have been begging for more if it had been twice as long. Now I am just very sad that it is over...
Absolutely! This is truly an amazing adventure!! It is beautifully written and narrated. Thank you for providing such a fantastic look into such a misunderstood land, David Greene. Fantastic!! I am listening to it again.
The interviews and the train rides.
An AMAZING Train Journey into the Heart of Russia
Loved it so much!! I highly recommend it
I didn't realize when I selected this book that the narrator is the guy I listen to almost every morning on NPR. David Green tells a great story here. It's a little weird listening to him in long-form, versus short form NPR. Nonetheless, his stories of his travels through Russia are fascinating.
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