Over the last four decades, Colin Thubron has established himself as the pre-eminent English-language travel writer, a mantle he has earned by both his avoidance of the clichés of the genre and his own distinctive gifts. In place of crass generalisations, snipes at local ‘failings’ and food, and a foregrounding of the writer’s own neuroses, Thubron has offered concise evocations of places and people in Russia, Central Asia and China in prose that has balance, restraint and lyricism. He has learned the languages of these places and possesses a deep knowledge of their histories and cultures.
Not long before the start of the pandemic, in his eightieth year, Thubron travelled the almost 3,000-kilometre-long Amur River, which originates in Mongolia, forms the border between Russia and China and ends in the Pacific. The book’s opening sentence is a good example of his style: ‘Across the