BACK IN THE USSR by Hunter Davies


Email this review


Or, What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by the Briton who's written the authorized Beatles biography (The Beatles, 1968) and 22 other books, including bios of William Wordsworth and George Stephenson. The 22 black-and-white snapshots that illustrate this account of the Davies family's July 1986 trip to the USSR--snapshots captioned ""Our Moscow Hotel, the Ukraine: 29 floors, 1500 rooms, very little to drink""; or, ""Rita Puskin, Beatles fan club secretary""--perfectly reflect the tone of the work: slapdash, postcard-y, and in the end offering little more insight than if Davies had kept both camera and pen capped. Davies did come back with a few neat glimpses of Soviet life, mostly of the publishlishing world--including a visit to the offices of Russia's leading publisher, who, after offering a tour of his extravagant personal suite, explains that his average first printing is an astonishing 100,000 copies. Much of Davies' brief, though, focuses on his hunt for beer or wine (""Here we go again. Bloody Moscow and bloody alcohol regulations""); his marveling at the Moscow Circus and the Kremlin and his grumbling at the queues (""The queue, dear God, the queue, at least two miles long""); and the state of Beatleology in the USSR (where Lennon is a major folk hero). Since this was a family holiday, wife Margaret and teen daughter Flora get to record their impressions in short diary inserts, but they do no better: ""The bloody weather is really shitty--windy, wet, and cold--not even Dad could pretend it was 'smashing,'"" writes Flora, while Margaret records that ""There were huge fat ladies in white coats weighing people on old-style scales for 4K, so I got weighed--63 kilos, now how much is that? Flora went to the loo. . ."" The perfect gift for a Davies family member or friend.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles