Book Review: The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

For the past two years, most of my life had been dictated by choc-a-bloc study schedules and school. In between, I found close to no time to indulge in my hobby of reading books.

Now that the dreaded exams are over and I have ample time at hand, I have rekindled my old love.

The fact that I revere travel literature is no secret, so I recently bought two classics from my sacred travel literature must-read bucket list to kick start the holidays.

Here, I review The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux.

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia – Paul Theroux

Theroux sets the tone for the rest of the book with his simple but evoking words- “I have seldom heard of a train go by and not wished I was on it”. It is similar to how we feel when see a plane zoom over our heads and instantly wish we were on it. In the starting, when he waxes poetic about train journeys and how journey is the goal, you almost want to abandon your place on the couch and hop onto a train yourself.

Paul Theroux paints the picture of a bazaar as much inside the train as outside it. He narrates about insipid train dinners with even more unappetizing company, about intriguing passengers and corrupt train conductors asking for baksheesh, all in his characteristic sharp humour.

He scribbles down his experiences aided by innumerable glasses of wine, sometimes hurrying, sometimes rambling on the four-month journey from London to Moscow.

Unlike other travelogues, the book almost reads like a novel. Lengthy conversations have been recalled almost exactly and the characters come to life as soon as they start to speak.

The Great Railway Bazaar is a bazaar of bizarre encounters and minor characters who find themselves brilliantly captured. It is one of those books which give more importance to the people the author meets on his journey, even famous places are given a fleeting glance. After all, Paul Theroux aptly says, “I sought trains and found passengers”.

A must-read for any self-confessed train lover.

Happy Reading!




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