A strange, beautiful account of a woman's intimate encounters with the people, places and politics of a rich yet crumbling culture.
'I know no one. I don't speak the language. The city has a reputation for being dangerous. I've become addicted to this scenario, to the thrill of travelling alone and watching how I deal with the terrors of a strange place. But this time it's different: Ada, a curator at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, is meeting me. At least I hope to god she's meeting me.'
With its shimmering palaces and decaying mansions, enchanted forests and basements crammed full of Soviet art, St Petersburg is a city of ghosts and illusions where past and present, and reality and fiction are inextricably fused.
In this city blasted by history it is not the grand events but the intimate details that Victoria Hammond is drawn to: a walk through Dostoevsky's streets on a white night; the friendship between a mafia boss and a Siberian tiger; a swim in the warmth of a moonlit Russian lake, stories of struggling artists and dignified intellectuals eking out existences in single rooms.
Beautifully written, strange and evocative, 'Letters From St Petersburg' is a compelling journey that reveals the strength and wonder of the places and people behind Russia's crumbling facades.