In this picaresque story of adventure, David Green captures an overlooked, idiosyncratic Russia in the age of Putin.
A journalist for National Public Radio in the US, David Greene decides to travel thousands of kilometres from Moscow to Vladivostok on the iconic Trans-Siberian line. On the train and in the many Siberian outposts he stops as he meets a wide range of ordinary Russian people – from a group of Beatles-singing babushkas to soldiers and struggling entrepreneurs – with situations arising that are at times comical, awkward or poignant. Travelling in third class, he learns to adhere to the train’s unwritten social codes and to navigate the unfamiliar environment of Siberia, occasionally shadowed by security agents.
Conjuring up other famous travellers to the regions such as Anton Chekhov, David Greene manages, through the events he describes and his reflections and conversations on the journey, to construct a complex, compassionate and astute portrait of Putin’s Russia, far away from the glamour and prestige of Moscow.