From the Publisher
"A welcome survey... [a] thorough overview...full of luminous facts and interpretations. ...A sturdy, more complete companion to other recent looks at the area."
Kirkus Reviews (Sept 1, 2003)
"A thoughtful account of 20th-century Uzbekistan and Tajikstan through the eyes and voices of three generations of its people...eloquent, often harrowing testimonies."
- The Sunday Telegraph (London)
"A work rich in both historical insight and emotional depth, [Land Beyond the River] offers an extraordinarily three-dimensional portrait of a region and its people." - The Scotsman (UK)
"Whitlock offers, as does the [BBC World] Service on the airwaves, somewhere in which countries can understand themselves through the devotion of outsiders to local detail. That voice of the true correspondent is most often present in asides, and Whitlock's, like her book, are exceptional." - Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Well informed and highly illuminating." - The Guardian (London)
The Sunday Telegraph (London)
"A thoughtful account of 20th-century Uzbekistan and Tajikstan through the eyes and voices of three generations of its people…eloquent, often harrowing testimonies."
The Scotsman (UK)
"A work rich in both historical insight and emotional depth, [Land Beyond the River] offers an extraordinarily three-dimensional portrait of a region and its people."
The Guardian (London)
"Well informed and highly illuminating."
Whitlock, a reporter for the BBC World Service, aspires to write a people's history of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan from 1909 to the present. "There are no accounts in English of Central Asia during the Second World War" reads a terse entry in Whitlock's bibliography, suggesting a problem with this approach: people's histories are difficult to present when a region has little in the way of recorded history. Whitlock is forced to weave in an inordinate amount of textbook-level exposition between her firsthand refugee interviews and excerpts from the unpublished diaries of dissidents, resulting in a book bursting out of its own category. Whitlock's intermittent focus on her close relationship with the inhabitants of these remote mountain valleys tends to make her prose veer toward the romantic, as when she describes how Uzbeks conscripted to patrol the Afghan border in June 1997 "walked back swiftly into the hot, black night, thick with the song of crickets." In the hands of a more gifted writer, such an ambitious approach might have successfully blended the newsworthy and the mundane, but Whitlock's prose is too pedestrian. Her preference is clearly for the "unsentimental lives of survivors," and she escorts us through the diplomatic activities of the elites with apparent reluctance. Although this book is certainly of interest to those with a serious curiosity about the region, more casual readers might wait a few years until this untold story is better told. Illus., maps. (Nov. 3) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
For most Americans, Central Asia remains a vaguely defined and shadowy region, even as our government continues to be drawn into its seemingly ceaseless upheavals. Whitlock, a BBC reporter, focuses on Uzbekistan and Tajikstan but also dedicates considerable coverage to events in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other nearby countries. Essentially, she has written a history of the region over the last 100 years, drawing in part on the accounts of local individuals. She writes of the Soviet takeover early in the last century, that country's withdrawal in the late 1980s, and concludes with the recent defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan. First published last year in Great Britain as Beyond the Oxus, this thorough, unemotional, authoritative, and evenhanded analysis will appeal to those who want more than just a current events and tourist view of a region that is likely to continue to flash across our television screens. For academic and larger public libraries.-Harold M. Otness, formerly of Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A welcome survey of a region that remains little known, even if it now often figures in the daily news. First came news that the Aral Sea was drying up, then that great oil reserves beckoned east of the post-Soviet Caspian, then that the Taliban were blowing up anything they didn't approve of in Afghanistan. Whitlock, a BBC World Service correspondent, was on the ground for a number of such events, and her thorough overview of the many lands west of China, east of Iran, and south of Russia is full of luminous facts and interpretations that help explain them. Before the arrival of the Soviets and the demarcation of Central Asia into various ethnic enclaves, for instance, "ordinary people of Bukhara and Ferghana rarely used the words �Uzbek' or �Tajik,' except, perhaps, when tempers were up in a bazaar row"; after the 1920s, however, race consciousness became ever more important, and to disastrous ends. Afghanistan's king at the time, of a modernizing temper, opened the door to outsiders, which, as an unintended consequence, led to a minor Soviet invasion in 1929and, Whitlock adds, the first use of Red Army paratroopers. A later Soviet invasion, in 1979, was never approved by the full Politburo; only "a coterie of generals and perhaps four members" ever made the decision to send in the Red Army, which of course changed world history. And so on. A lively writer, Whitlock favors an encyclopedic inclusivenessin the high valleys of the Pamir Mountains, she writes, for instance, "wheat, walnuts, almonds, cherries, pistachios, apricots, peaches, quinces, figs, apples, pears and pomegranates all grow well, and bread, nuts and fruit are important staples"that sometimes threatensto drown her narrative in data. But given how little Western readers know of the region, what is wanted is just that detailed compendium, and not another travelogue in the Robert Byron vein. A sturdy, more complete companion to other recent looks at the area, such as Tom Bissell's Changing the Sea (p. 786) and Lutz Kleveman's The New Great Game (p. 952).