An evocative glimpse of an isolated, seldom visited part of Russia, though its depiction of volatile drunks in a bleak...

After 11 years in Moscow, American journalist Tayler took a river trip through Russia’s Siberian hinterlands, encountering a punishing climate and plentiful nostalgia for the communist past.

In the early 17th century, Tayler (Angry Wind, 2005, etc.) writes, the Cossacks sailed the Lena River from Lake Baikal to the Artic Circle, annexing the land for the tsar as they went. Since then, the settlements they established have been Russian outposts: home to exiles, ethnic minorities and pioneers who sought to build the Soviet state. Tayler set out to recreate the Cossacks’ voyage in the summer of 2004, traveling 2,400 miles of the river north in a raft. He was inspired, he explains, by a desire to escape the confines of Moscow and to try to understand the people who are President Vladimir Putin’s most stalwart supporters. The trip was punishing. Mosquitos and other pests abounded. Storms whipped up huge waves that threatened to capsize the raft. The guide, a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, made it clear from the beginning that he preferred the company of Siberia’s beautiful and barren landscape to that of his employer. Tayler, on the other hand, was interested in people, and he vividly sketches his sojourns into the remote river communities. Drunken, hopeless teens danced in shacks; drunken, hopeless adults bemoaned the end of communism; Tayler heard stories of underground nuclear blasts and resulting cancers; he saw villages abandoned and left to decay. Most of the people he met voiced enthusiasm for the Soviet days, glossing over Stalin’s death camps to remember the monetary support and sense of mission they had under communism. Their enthusiasm for Putin reflected their desire for a return to this idealized past.

An evocative glimpse of an isolated, seldom visited part of Russia, though its depiction of volatile drunks in a bleak landscape does no favors for the Siberian tourist industry.

Pub Date: July 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-53909-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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