REELING IN RUSSIA by Fen Montaigne


An Angler's Journey
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A quiet, evocative ramble through the Russian countryside by a former Philadelphia Inquirer Moscow bureau chief, who had made it his quest to fly-fish from the White Sea to Kamchatka and visit every Stalinist labor camp along the way. Montaigne shucked his newspaperman’s job to do a little fishing. He had fallen for Russia wholesale, wanted to get to know its heartland and its backwaters. To break the ice with locals, he would cast his line upon their waters, for Russians are smitten with fishing. And he does fish up a storm--casting for Solovetsky trout in narrow canals built by 15th-century monks, trying to entice the near-mythical Siberian taimen to bite his streamer, wading for steelhead in Kamchatka, and praying for Atlantic salmon in the rivers of the Kola Peninsula—mostly without success; rather, what he catches is a host of brief encounters with folks who live thereabouts. They share with him their feelings about life after communism--which range from lousy to a belief they they are in a land full of opportunity, with a large amount of corruption, decay, organized crime, and bootlegging in between. But what makes this book such a soulful affair, what gives it its warmth, is that everyone Montaigne chances upon shares their meager hoard with him, without hesitation. Sausage and bread are always pulled out, perhaps a fish soup, and always vodka, which flows through the story as wide and deep as the Volga. Montaigne’s Russians have not just a canny knack for surviving in an anarchy masquerading as a democracy, they have an enviable talent for living with brio. And if there is a Russian penchant for fatalism, it’s thrown into sharp relief as Montaigne describes his forays to the most remote gulag outposts, relicts that exude to this day an unearthly grimness. The very stuff of footloose travel--strange companions, confounding situations, unexpected moments of fear and eye-popping wonder--told with a journalist’s eye for detail. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 30th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18595-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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