Australian author Favel Parrett draws the reader in with writing that is simple and spare, but also beautiful and poetic. Isla, her brother, and her mAustralian author Favel Parrett draws the reader in with writing that is simple and spare, but also beautiful and poetic. Isla, her brother, and her mother move to Tasmania to get a new start. They live near the harbor in Hobart where a red Danish icebreaker, the Nella Dan, docks on its way to Antarctica. Bo, a crewman, becomes involved with the lonely, impoverished family. One of his gifts to the young teen Isla was his storytelling, showing her that there was a big world out there to enjoy and explore. Bo looked at his surroundings with wonder and awe, such as when he viewed the nests of the snow petrols in Antarctica: "Babies so small, so perfect and white. I'm careful not to get too close, not to disturb them. I keep walking up, away from the nests, and when I reach the top the view hits me with full force. The whole of the rich blue bay, still. Perfect. Nella Dan there in her spot, reflecting red off the water. The sky cloudless. Giant white cliffs running on and on, then out to the horizon, icebergs lined up for all of time, blue and brilliant white taking up the whole scene. Every blue that there is--that exists. One million shades of blue and white. The scale of it all measured against me, one man standing here. Just one man, small and breathless."
Bo's other great gift was the warmth, kindness, and hope he brought to Isla and her brother, acting as a father figure. "My brother and I walked on the stone streets, the past there like an owl watching us from the rusty rooftops. Huge eyes and then sharp claws that tried to pick at us as we walked. Tried to take our warmth--steal our joy--take the light away. But kindness was a shield."
The ship, the Nella Dan, is based on an actual Danish supply ship with a warm, tight crew who loved working on her. The Nella Dan is very much a character in the book. The reader is transported from the streets of Hobart to the frozen ground of Antarctica to an island off the coast of Denmark. In a series of vignettes we see the world through the eyes of Bo and Isla.