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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  37 reviews
"Icefields" is a story of adventure and discovery that unfolds amidst the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Presented within the frame of a tourist guidebook, this novel records life in the mountains, as time and the coming of the railroad slowly transform the settlement of Jasper from a place of myth and legend to a modern tourist town. Exhaustively researched, thi...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 16th 1995 by NeWest Press (first published 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 592)
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I read this book in grade 10 English Honors (yeah that's right).

I remember the author came to our classroom and we asked him about some of the 'metaphors' our teacher told us about. He told us that they weren't intended to be metaphors. That's when I realized that writers write and readers find the meaning. Especially if you're teaching an Honors class.
Megan (Megan Likes Books)
I don't read outdoorsy books. I'm much more of a fantasy/historical fiction kind of girl. That said, I loved Icefields! Loved it! Wharton did an amazing job. It was historical, geological and unsettling.
I can see why this book's format isn't for everyone, but Michael Wharton is such a lyrical writer. And I don't care for cold any more than I enjoy heat. Nonetheless, he made me want to visit glaciers.
Thomas Wharton was the writer in residence my second year of university and he was such a cool and inspirational guy. I loved Icefields - vivid Canadiana wrapped up in a fantastic story.

Read this book for a university English course and must say, it was magic. I absolutely loved and so has everyone I recommended it to.
Alberta at the end of the 19th century. Descriptions of glaciers. Zero plot. Not a terribly engaging read.
This book transports you back in time when people were just beginning to travel to the Rockies for leisure, and naturalists were drawn to the unspoiled icefields. The author depicts the power of nature to draw men back again and again to see what will be revealed to them with the passage of time, and touches on the spiritual identity of the landscape.
The main character, Dr. Byrne, is enthralled by the icefields, and spends his life trying to replicate or revisit an early experience of their powe...more
We just returned from a hiking vacation in Banff and vicinity. While there, I was in a bookstore and asked the proprietor to recommend something uniquely Canadian. This was her suggestion, and it was a good one.
The protagonist is a doctor who first visits Jasper in 1898 as a young man, where he has a traumatic and life-changing experience, falling into a crevasse while ice-climbing. He survives, and is haunted by an image he saw in the ice while waiting (hoping) to be rescued. The book follows...more
Cheryl Andrews
This book was a Canada Reads selection in 2008, defended by astronaut Steve MacLean. I’m sorry I missed it then, and pleased that I finished reading Wharton’s debut novel (published in 1995) this morning. I now want to read everything he’s written since!

I was as intrigued by the story as the author’s writing style, as matter of fact and minimalistic as the opening line, “At a quarter past three in the afternoon, on August 17, 1898, Doctor Edward Byrne slipped on the ice of Arcturus Glacier in th...more
Oct 03, 2010 rabbitprincess rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like very episodic narratives
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Canada Reads/Steve Maclean
* * 1/2

After 90 pages, I'm abandoning this book. When I first picked it up, I was looking forward to the descriptions of glaciers and the adventuring/mountaineering in Alberta at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century. And the first part of the book certainly delivered, with a scientific expedition and one Dr. Byrne falling into a crevasse. However, once Byrne had recovered from that and the story moved on to other threads, I lost interest.

It also did not help that the story is told i...more
Of everything I enjoyed the imagery and the italics of this book.

The italics were different peoples poetry or journal entries throughout. They were personalized, raw and didn't always make sense until I read them again. Ordinarily that would frustrate me but in this book it intrigued me.

The imagery was appealing because of course it's an entire book about ice. How many different ways can one describe their surroundings when they are surrounded by ice? Well, you'd be surprised my friends.

My tro...more
Matt Heavner
A fantastic novel -- it got better and better. The glaciology was enjoyable, but the glacier was secondary. This was a very sparsely written, almost surrealistic novel that sparked my imagination and a "fill in the blank" reading. Actually, the glaciology was great, the reading was really fun. This is a great look at humanity and mythology. Wow!
Maryanne Henderson
This book was a disappointment compared to its reputation. I found the characters to be indistinct and difficult to care about. The one element of the book that it was easy to care about, however, were the icefields themselves. Wharton has woven the history of the icefields into this novel and it is particularly compelling as we see the impact of climate change and the tourist development that has passed legislation here in Alberta.
Forced to read this book for a Contemporary Literature class in college. Also, I wrote a BANGIN' essay on this book, if I do say so myself.

Frankly, the topic of my essay is all this book was really good for, Nature Imagery and it's relation to the characters. This book was incredibly slow reading, and I really don't like pages and pages of imagery description, so that made it worse. I did enjoy the characters and their relationships, but they were few and far between the on-going prattle about i...more
Felt like I was there! But not certain where the author was going with the story. Too many unfinished pieces. Eager to be on the fields soon.
Kelly Mahaney
Enjoyable read. Cross between history mixed with some fiction to make the story entertaining. Recommend.
Struggle with this one ... And yet was compelled to read on ...
Mackenzie Cook
This books was artful in it's description of Canadian environment. The delivery of the story with short sections of plot that flip-flop between characters make the story difficult to follow. The writing is modern and assumes that the reader is immersed enough in the text to be able to envision the details of the story. However the subject of mystique found in the vastness of wild, is intriguing. I found the historical elements that Wharton pulls into the book somewhat problematic, in some cases...more
Icefields was chosen for Canada Reads 2008 on CBC by the Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean. I picture glaciers of 100 years ago as these thick, impenetrable expanses of ice, but the author must see things differently. He has chosen to tell this story in fragments of journals, newspaper clippings, and narrative accounts. Wharton has also drawn on about six different myths to get him through. I feel like this book suffers from the author including too much. The story is too busy and left me wanting...more
A book about obsession and visions. It has a dreamlike quality to it and is a gentle read even if not all aspects are peaceful or gentle, its more the language is gentle. The imagery is wonderful the plot is slow (glacial?). I think I would have liked it a bit better with a bit more depth to the characters but in a sense they are secondary to the glacier itself and the secrets it holds.

I really liked the Dr's obsession with the glacier and his measuring and waiting for it to creep forward and se...more
I really, really wanted to like this book because the author wrote it when he was living two hours away from where I live now. It's all about the discovery of the Jasper Icefields and various characters living in the icefields. This means that there was a lot of snow and ice in the book, which meant that I was cold the whole time I read it.

Just couldn't get into this book. Perhaps I will read it in the summertime when it's really, really hot.
Catherine Siemann
I loved Wharton's Salamander; this one I liked. Centering on the inhabitants of an area on the edge of a glacier in the Canadian Rockies, in the early 20th century, it deals with both the fascination of the unknown, the paradise lost of development and of connections not made. The minimalist writing style is effective, but somehow keeps the reader distanced from the characters. Really 3 1/2 stars.
Eind 2003 kwam in Nederland het boek Salamander van Thomas Wharton uit. Bijna twee jaar later is dan ook eindelijk zijn debuutroman IJsval in het Nederlands verschenen. Het boek ontving diverse prijzen, en waarom we er zo lang op hebben moeten wachten is dan ook een raadsel.

Lees meer op 8WEEKLY
Typically Canadian. Typically driven by setting/environment. Typically drawn-out with an excruciatingly slow pace. Typically referencing characters' pasts or ancestors. Typically literary. Typically not a "bad" book but not an entertaining one either. For long, quiet, lazy, reflective evenings by the fire with a cup of tea, if you're into that kind of thing and have the time.
Kept me cool on a too-hot day. Lyrical and strange and disjointed and certainly not for everyone, but I liked the characters (typically, I was most interested in the women) and the Canadiana. A pretty fast read and more than worth the $1.50 I paid for it at some used bookstore in some city not mine.
Lynn Bornath
Quiet, understated, well-written, and different. I'm glad I read it. Read the full review.
Dennis Gerwing
This was a difficult book for me to rate. I almost abandoned it after the first 50 pages ... but came close to giving it 5 stars by book's end.
Nenia Campbell
You can read more of my reviews, faster, at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.

Literature can be amazing, depressing, pretentious, or boring.

This was boring. And pretentious. Not a good combination.

I think this would be a good read for a hipster who thinks that he or she might fancy the idea of a trek in the snow au naturel. Got a friend who thinks he could be the next Chris McCandless? Give him this book.

Overall, not for me.


1 star.
Stephen Evans
Touching but written in a sparse, clean style of prose that is, well, icey. Nothing lush about this book but a good read nonetheless.
Excellent epoch about the end of the rail line at the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The ending illustrates the continuity of obsession.
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About Me
I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and I write books for grown-ups and kids. The Shadow of Malabron, the first volume in my trilogy The Perilous Realm, is available now in Canada, the UK, and the US.
More about Thomas Wharton...
Salamander The Shadow of Malabron (Perilous Realm, #1) The Logogryph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books The Fathomless Fire (Perilous Realm, #2) The Tree of Story

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