A wonderfully original book about contemporary Russia as seen on journeys in search of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Lermontov, Chekhov, Gogol and Turgenev.
Sara Wheeler's travel books include Terra Incognita- Travels in Antarctica (1997), The Magnetic North- Travels in the Arctic (2010) and Access All Areas- Selected Writings 1990-2010 (2011). She has also written biographies of Apsley Cherry-Garrard and Denys Finch Hatton, and O My America!, about women who travelled to America in the nineteenth century.
Wheeler's writing is full of...strong detail; her drily witty
sentences snap like sushki, the crunchy sugared bread rings
Russians east with their coffee. Mud and Stars is a pleasure to
read slowly... her modest, ungrand tour, with its rich map
of extraordinary writers and "ordinary" Russians...is far more of
an epic than it at first appears. * Daily Telegraph *
[A] literary romp in the footsteps of [Russia's "big beast" 19th-century] writers - which does not skimp on detail or seriousness... I approached this book thinking that it would be - along with Elif Batuman's The Possessedand Viv Groskop's The Anna Karenina Fix - the third in a recent hattrick of women's journeys through Russian literature. Wheeler goes beyond these books by travelling to the backwaters of Russia so that we don't have to - we can continue to travel in the comfort of our armchair through the pages of the masterpieces that the great writers left behind. * The Times *
The image many westerners have of Russia is an unflattering one, heavy on totalitarianism and repression. Sara Wheeler offers an important corrective. Part literary criticism, part travelogue, her fascinating book... is as enthusiastic and authoritative a guide as one could wish for. * Guardian *
Well informed and independent-minded... [Mud and Stars is] an intelligent inquiry into the human condition itself... Wheeler is also side-splittingly funny in her breaking of taboos. * Times Literary Supplement *
Wheeler is a determined traveller, roving well beyond the itinerary of tourist Russia... [she has] an insight into a random sample of contemporary Russians - how they live, what they think. The outcome is a book that is enjoyable and enlightening in equal measure. * Tablet *