On the Shadow Tracks

Clare Hammond

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Penguin Books Ltd
6 June 2024
ISBN: 9780241623893
Hardback
400 pages

From the publisher

An immersive, magisterial portrait of Myanmar, told through the story of its hidden railways

'On the Shadow Tracks harnesses the railway lines of Myanmar’s complicated past to its turbulent present, and the result is part travelogue, part history and completely absorbing. An astonishing achievement’
Joanna Lumley


In 2016, while working as a journalist in Yangon, Clare Hammond discovered an obscure map that showed a web of new railways spanning the length and breadth of the country - railways not shown on any other publicly available maps. She was determined to uncover the railways' origins, purpose, and most of all, the silence that surrounded them. She would spend three months travelling on these mysterious railways, and the next five years piecing their story together.

Her journey would take her from Myanmar's tropical south to the embattled mountain towns that border India and China. In dilapidated carriages, along tracks in disrepair, through contested ethnic states and former sites of forced labour, visiting temples, tea shops and festivals, Clare encountered a colourful and contradictory Myanmar through the stories of its people. Simultaneously a lush and evocative travelogue, an unsparing account of Myanmar's recent history, and an astonishing, conversation-shifting engagement with Britain's colonial legacy, On the Shadow Tracks is that rare and necessary thing: a book that finds and tells the truth.