Eastbound by Maylis de Kerangal [8/10]

French author Maylis de Kerangal was unknown to me until Eastbound, a slim (137 pages) novel/novella, set on the epic Trans-Siberian Express, popped up repeatedly on my radar. Any novel with a scene in Krasnoyarsk, a remote cowboy town I once stayed in, begs to be read, right? The premise is both cliche and, when one looks at it, original: a Russian conscript, traveling eastbound on the train for the middle of nowhere, attempts to escape and falls in with an older Frenchwoman in First Class, fleeing her Russian patrician lover. The author, an immersive stylist perfectly captures the pell-mell passage of the train through unceasing whiteness, infusing every page with atmosphere and rushing tension. Not quite a thriller, not quite a literary drama, Eastbound feels like a morsel from a large cake but offers a pleasing, exotic diversion.

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