The Road of Bones, By Jeremy Poolman

Sent to Siberia – but with many stops along the way

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The Independent Culture

The Vladimirka Road starts in Red Square in Moscow and runs across the Russian steppes all the way to Siberia. Poolman travels along it in pilgrimage after the death of a close friend, musing on the suffering and death the road has seen (it led to Stalin's gulags) and recording his encounters with present-day Russians, who tend to be gnomic and grumpy. The book gives a strong impression of the vastness of Russia and the cruelties of its history, but it's spoilt by the portentous tone, contorted syntax, and a series of significant moments that seem manufactured. There is also no real sense of movement: something of a drawback in a travel book.