**spoiler alert** Every school child in Canada learns about the Last Franklin Expedition; the myth, the legend and the few known hard facts. In its ti...more**spoiler alert** Every school child in Canada learns about the Last Franklin Expedition; the myth, the legend and the few known hard facts. In its time the fate of the 128 officers and crew was the world's greatest mystery and was only conclusively solved in the late 20th Century, almost 150 years after Franklin sailed two ships out of Liverpool and into the arctic.
Brandt supplies a wealth of historical information and deftly weaves it into a gripping and, ultimately, tragic story. Not only does Brandt recount the Last Franklin Expedition of 1845, he charts the entire history of the search for the North West Passage from the 16th Century to the modern day. He details the expeditions by land and by sea in a compelling narrative rather than just a dry recitation of dates and facts. He also provides the historical context of the quest for the North West Passage and the biographies of those men and women who gave their lives to its discovery.
Brandt easily and clearly evokes the Canadian High Arctic, bringing the bleak and sometimes bizarre geography. While the reader, in particular the listener, could benefit by reference to a map of the arctic, never once does Brandt fail to give a sense of scale, environment and sheer distance. Brandt does a masterful job of transporting the reader to the astounding and deadly landscape.
No mystery should have its end revealed too soon and Brandt keeps the reader in suspense. While most of us know what the ultimate end met by Franklin and his men, Brandt cleverly leaves the details until the end when he tells the stories of the several rescue missions what what they conjectured and eventually discovered. Here, again, Brandt shows a deft hand in providing the historical context, following the efforts of Franklin's wife, Jane and her quest to uncover what happened to her husband and his men.
Brandt also evokes the tragedy, the heroism and the pathos of those men at the last, describing the effects and consequences of the environment they braved.
Simon Vance's narration is magnificent, his cadence and inflection lend a certain British seriousness and gravity to the tale. His voice itself is delightful to the ear and truly brings Brandt's book to life.
Anyone who is enthralled by the arctic, or tales of heroism, or indeed, the history of the Last Franklin Expedition should not miss this book. The wealth of historical detail is enlightening, the explication of the personalities is edifying and the tragic tale astounding. This is easily one of the best books I have read this year.
One last note for genre readers. This book would make an excellent companion to Dan Simmons' novel The Terror. Simmons terrifying novel "fills in" the blank spaces and the remaining mysteries of the Last Franklin Expedition in a quite literally chilling story of madness, monsters and murder. And, if you have read The Man Who Ate His Boots I would recommend reading Simmons' novel as well. Simmons does a fantastic job of bringing the arctic to life in a way Brandt does not, and he remains as true as possible to the know facts. Also and excellent read.(less)
A very interesting read. Fagan takes what would normally be a dry and tedious examnation of Early Modern Humans, their enivronment and culture and mak...moreA very interesting read. Fagan takes what would normally be a dry and tedious examnation of Early Modern Humans, their enivronment and culture and makes it a living, breathing history. Fagan brings the landscape of Europe of 100 000 to 15 000 years ago alive with anecdotes and vignettes of what life must have been like for our Cro-Magnon ancestors.
A wealth of detail about the habits, prey, tools and societies of Ice Age man does not overwhelm the essential narative Fagan presents. He traces the hardships of life in the last Glacial Maximum and how man adapted his way of life and his tools to survive. The careful reader will also take away a subtle warning of how the enivronment, and most especially climate change, can radically effect humanity.
A great read for anyone interested in the origins of modern humans, pre-history and anthropology. Accessable by the lay reader, requiring only the most basic understanding of anthropology and pre-history.(less)
A well researched treatise on the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Readers expecting a more "exciting" or "sensational" treatment of Guy Fawkes will be d...moreA well researched treatise on the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Readers expecting a more "exciting" or "sensational" treatment of Guy Fawkes will be disappointed, but for those with a more academic interest in the history of the Gunpowder Plot will find this book rich in detail and information. Fraser focuses on the men, women and families of the plotters, and on the men who prosecuted them. Very necessary context is provided by Faser, clarifying the politics, society, religions and prevailing attitudes of late Elizabethan and early Jocobian England. Also of interest is her detailing of the ongoing controversy in academia concering the Gunpowder Plot.
The Gunpowder Plot is a detailed, if at times dry, examination of the people, places and actions surrounding the abortive attack on King and Parliament on 5 November 1605. It is well recommended for those with a historical bent.(less)