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Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
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A-Shadow of the Silk RoadDespite its name, the Silk Road—the almost mythical subject of Colin Thubron’s ninth travel book—is not a single road but a vast network of trade routes that have conducted merchants, goods, explorers, and armies from east to west and west to east since 1500 BC. Tracing the 7,000-mile, officially unmarked route from Xian, China, to Antioch, Turkey, took the 60-something Thubron two years and led him through countries and among people he had written about as many as 40 years earlier. Thubron travels rough—hitchhiking, drinking with beggars, staying in villagers’ mud huts—and connects with the people he meets along the way. Shadow of the Silk Road is a story of continuity and change, of what is lost and what is gained in the encounter between the ancient and the modern.
HarperCollins. 363 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 006123172X

Economist 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Shadow of the Silk Road is an astonishing achievement—both the journey and the book. Mr. Thubron’s tenacity, endurance, stamina and erudition metamorphose into exquisite prose."

Guardian 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Some reviewers detected an elegiac undertow in the work, a sense of swansong or the final big journey of our most gifted travel writer. Wherever the road takes [Thubron] to from here, Shadow of the Silk Road—the most important travel book of 2006—is a masterpiece." Rory MacLean

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Obviously, [Thubron] had an uncommonly interesting and rewarding time, and he has now written an uncommonly interesting and rewarding book about it. … All in all, a splendid book." Jonathan Yardley

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Shadow of the Silk Road is moving in a way that’s rare in travel literature, sidestepping nostalgia even as it notes its pull. Thubron goes to places most other sojourners can’t—because they’re not so much geographic locations as states of mind, formed from the lifelong accretion of intriguing facts, mistaken hopes, mysteries." Lorraine Adams

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Thubron has done it all, with sparkling grace. … [He] is a brilliant brooder, artful in his melancholy." Peter Lewis

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Thubron is a patient traveler, invariably finding someone with whom to converse, learning life stories and local legends. His accounts are brief but vivid." Michael Kenney

Critical Summary

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.