This was exciting! I recommend this book to those who want to throw themselves into another world, albeit a world cold, wet, icy and filled with fear,...moreThis was exciting! I recommend this book to those who want to throw themselves into another world, albeit a world cold, wet, icy and filled with fear, exhaustion and hunger.
Ernest Shackleton set out in 1914 to cross the Antarctic from west to east. Yes, WW1 had broken out and he had Churchill’s go-ahead Why? For the glory of Britain and for his own glory too. The race for polar discovery was in full-swing. On December 14, 1911, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen led the first successful expedition to arrive at the South Pole, five weeks ahead of a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott. Robert Edwin Peary, an American explorer, is credited with having been the first to reach the geographic North Pole. There has been some debate as to whether Frederick Cook, also an American, got there a year earlier.
The audiobook narration by Simon Prebble is excellent.
When the expedition began there were twenty-nine men aboard the Endurance; there was one stowaway! (view spoiler)[All twenty-nine survived. (hide spoiler)]This book lets you live the experiences of these men and shows how this amazing feat was accomplished. I have a shelf for books concerning “bad-trip” expeditions. To date, this is my favorite.
This story is true to the best of my memory. But memory is flawed and colored by emotion and e...more NO SPOILERS!!!
This memoir begins with the author's note:
This story is true to the best of my memory. But memory is flawed and colored by emotion and events of the intervening years. Therefore, there may be some who might remember particular details, characters and events differently.
This statement should preface all memoirs, but it doesn't! This author has the humility and true understanding to begin with this thought.
The author's childhood memories have a special honesty and clarity. I highly appreciate the sections focusing on her childhood and the information she provides concerning her mother's early life. She clearly states she doesn't understand why decisions were made; as a child, she was not part of the decision process. What shines through is her perception of the events. I trust these memories. They express her emotions, how she thought and felt as a child. Sometimes what is related is sad, sometimes poignant and sometimes simply fun. Look what happened when Julia and her sister decided to help their mother:
Once we decide to scrub the kitchen floor. We found a bucket and two bars of laundry soap under the sink. We poured some water on the floor and, in the interest of neatness, stripped down to our underpants. As we were sloshing the soap around, we discovered that, with a little maneurvering, and with our knees pulled up to our chins, we could sit on a bar of soap and, taking turns giving each other a push, slide halfway across the floor. When we tired of that, we experimented with pouring more water on the floor, wedging the laundry bars under our bellies and "swimming" from one end of the kitchen to the other. My mother came home to find us soaked and muddy and half naked and the kitchen a semi-flooded disaster.
She never punished us, never hit us or raised her voice. She could laugh in the most hopeless situations. And she was capable of a cold and unbending resolve. (page 23)
What is wonderful is that Julia's mother, sister, father and others are viewed from the experiences she remembers as a child. The honesty is evident, while at the same time one is very aware that there are other ways of judging the events. The lives of her mother and these two girls, who lost their father at the ages of eleven and thirteen respectively, were not easy. They live in San Francisco, Seattle, Nome, Fairbanks, sometimes in "orphanages" where they were deposited without really knowing why or for how long. And then their mother collected them, and they were off to another place. The childhood memories of Alaska take place during the early 1940s while the war was raging, when the fear was that the Japanese would attack even Nome. But the story is not historical; it is about personal experiences.
My problem with the book is when I consider what is the message the author is trying to impart? I know she is stressing the importance of acknowledging the past and the very value of our memories. Be they "real" or "twisted"; they are all we have! Nevertheless as the author grows into adulthood the book seems more ponderous. I know she is emphasizing that we must remember, but people are all different and this is not a choice for all of us. The author's own mother's fate is something she wants to escape. She simply has to leave Alaska, but what teenager ever wants to follow in their parents' footsteps?! The author does acknowledge her mother's strength. I am not quite sure if the message that we must analyze and look at our memories is a universal solution for all. Both the author's mother and her sister approach their memories completely differently. Perhaps that is what was best for them, but not for the author. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. Somehow the clarity that infuses the first sections of the book gets lost in the latter sections. In the first we see with the author what she saw and felt and experienced. In the latter sections she is groping and looking for a philosophical meaning that perhaps cannot be found. Maybe this is what growing up is all about?! I do not know. I was left floundering.
The writing is excellent, particularly in the first half. Early memories of life, growing up in Alaska and in San Francisco, shine. (less)