Book Review: Midnight in Siberia by David Greene

20663701Title: Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia

Author: David Greene

Genre: Travel, Nonfiction, Culture, Russia, Autobiography, Memoir, History, Travelogue, Journalism, Adventure, Politics

Publisher: WW Norton & Company

Published: October 20, 2014

Page Amount: 336 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: Far away from the trendy cafes, designer boutiques, and political protests and crackdowns in Moscow, the real Russia exists. Midnight in Siberia chronicles David Greene’s journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 6,000-mile cross-country trip from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. In quadruple-bunked cabins and stopover towns sprinkled across the country s snowy landscape, Greene speaks with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. These travels offer a glimpse of the new Russia a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity but continues to endure oppression, corruption, a dwindling population, and stark inequality.

Why Read: If you know me at all, you know that Russia is one of my favorite countries. Not because I want to move there, but because the culture is so interesting and the people so different from the people I have grown up with. The country seems to breed dictators, and democracy flounders with every new attempt- leading to a want for stability rather than freedom. How can you not be interested in how a country became this way? Reading the synopsis of Greene’s work on Russia told through individual stories – I was immediately caught up in a want to read this book.

Review: It is difficult to know where to start with this book, because I loved so much about it. The element of individual stories told in different parts of Russia, each with their own characters and unique takeaway for Russia’s past and future was extremely compelling. Greene’s strategy for telling a mostly bias-free narrative comes out in full force, and I found myself loving each new character, while simultaneously hurting as I learned of their hardship. Instead of taking away a new urge for political freedom or anti-corruption change, most of these Russians took away endurance.

Greene’s writing style is very intriguing, and the mix between storytelling and travel accounts brings the reader directly into the story and on the train with him and his loyal Russian compatriot. Part of why I love travelogues is the combination of a writer’s experience on the road and the stories they accumulate from their journey. Greene brings this into full perspective as I began to greedily want for a day or even weeks on the Siberian Railway (first class- naturally), while similarly wanting to go and speak to people in the way that he did.

Russia has such a diverse history and such a diverse cast of characters that at times, it felt as though Greene had found the best stories of them all simply by chance. After finishing the book, however, the realization came that how Russia has grown is the primary push in creating this strange and separate population. Compare the people in Moscow or Vladivostock to those living in small villages, who still struggle to get solid WLAN in their homes – and it’s obvious: Russia’s 11 time zones encompass every kind of person.

As you can tell most probably, I really and truly enjoyed this book. Russian history mixed in with the personal stories from Russians is something of a weak spot for me. I would recommend that everyone and their friends read this, because even if you don’t think you need to learn about individual Russians – you do.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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