Being a fan of stories about arctic exploration, I've read about the voyage of the Jeanette before, but this telling was fresh and riveting. Just theBeing a fan of stories about arctic exploration, I've read about the voyage of the Jeanette before, but this telling was fresh and riveting. Just the thought of dealing with the physical and mental challenges of being frozen in the ice for over a year is terrifying enough. But then having to head hundreds of miles across a (somewhat) frozen sea in a race to the Siberian coast. Jeez. And then the really horrible stuff starts. Sides really pulls together the documentary evidence surrounding this expedition and weaves it well in the narrative. Thank goodness the expeditions journals were preserved throughout all those trials. Especially moving are the letters that the expedition's leader continues to write to her husband as he struggles to get home. That anyone survived these harrowing conditions is a miracle.
There were a few aspects of the book I could have done without. The expository chapters about newspaper magnate and expedition founder James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and mapmaker and arctic scholar August Petermann, while interesting, didn't really seam to drive the story along all that much. Other areas I'd like to have gotten more of; John Muir makes a cameo appearance on a rescue expedition, which was a surprise. I'd like to read his memoir of his arctic sojourn some day. I wasn't really aware that he'd done this.
I raced through the last third of this book, thinking that the checkout period for it ended a week before it actually did. I would have liked to have spent a bit more time with this....more
Journalist Booth travels around the five Nordic countries, describing what it is about them that makes them tick, with a special view toward their recJournalist Booth travels around the five Nordic countries, describing what it is about them that makes them tick, with a special view toward their records and reputations as well-functioning, happy societies.
Married to a Dane and living in Denmark, Booth gives more time and space to Denmark, which was probably the country I knew the least about among all of them. The sections on Iceland and Norway lean heavily toward their recent economic gains and losses; he's a big fan of the quiet and unassuming Finns. Sweden, on the other hand, as the big kid on the block, gets looked at much more critically and raises some scary questions about whether the Swedish system might be described as "benevolent totalitarianism." In the end, though, he seems to genuinely admire all of these countries.
Although he does a great job of introducing readers to the unique customs and cultural attitudes of these countries, he also spends a lot of time looking at their economies and political institutions. Sometimes he makes jokes at the expense of these and other countries, usually involving stereotypes -- these often fell flat for me. He actually is very funny -- the chapter during which he ran around Stockholm trying to shock the locals by jaywalking, eating loudly in a museum, invading personal space and (gasp!) talking too much to strangers was my favorite....more
I saw this on Donna,s list of to-read books. We both have a fondness for books about exploration, oceans, shipwrecks and the like, so I knew she mustI saw this on Donna,s list of to-read books. We both have a fondness for books about exploration, oceans, shipwrecks and the like, so I knew she must have picked this for a good reason. Sorry I beat you to this, Donna, but I know you're going to like it.
In 1864, two very different groups of men were shipwrecked on the Auckland Islands, 250 miles south of New Zealand. Marooned at opposite ends of the islands, the two groups never encountered each other. One group was resourceful, mutually supportive, and generally made the best of an 18-month ordeal. The other group lacked leadership, exhibited little compassion for their fellows, and basically fell to pieces. Using diaries, memoirs and various reports, Druett pieced together what likely happened and produced a quickly readable narrative.
In addition to these men's stories, the reader is introduced to the geography, flora and fauna of these remote islands, and a little of their history before these events and after. Readers who know their way around an ocean-going vessel and have a bit of knowledge of sailing might absorb more than I did, but I didn't find the jargon too off-putting.
Although I don't read them in books as often as I should, the reader would be rewarded by taking the time to peruse her Author's Notes. Their thorough, well-written, and full of praise for the librarians who helped her. I love authors who do that. And I love that the books ends with the list of rules for visitors visiting the Auckland Islands today. It made me chuckle....more
A poor bible-believing family with over a dozen musically-inclined kids shows up at the end of the road in a remote communityThis is one crazy story.
A poor bible-believing family with over a dozen musically-inclined kids shows up at the end of the road in a remote community near a national park in Alaska. At first, the community embraces the newcomers with open arms, excited about the prospect of having new neighbors contributing to the community. But soon, the Pilgrim family becomes the focus of controversy. They begin squatting on and making illegal roads on park land, steal business (and property), and start getting violent with their neighbors. Land rights groups start using the family to represent their various causes.
The author has ties to the community, and writes some stories about the Pilgrims for an Anchorage newspaper. But then he becomes more involved and decides to find out more about this family and their strange patriarch. And the story goes down some strange paths, involving the mysterious death of the daughter of a Texas governor, living on land owned by Jack Nicholson in New Mexico, and, just possibly, a brush with Charles Manson.
And things get even darker after some of the children start showing signs of abuse.
Kizzia is an excellent investigative journalist. His writing is very sympathetic and even-handed, and he does a great job of uncovering the personalities of the many people involved in this strange story....more
I can't seem to get enough of Mawson's story. I've read a few versions of this mind-blowing ordeal, including Racing With Death and Mawson's own accI can't seem to get enough of Mawson's story. I've read a few versions of this mind-blowing ordeal, including Racing With Death and Mawson's own account, The Home of the Blizzard. Nothing, of course stacks up reading Mawson's original account, but, being a scientist, his version does tend to meander into the scientific minutiae of the expedition's purposes -- temperature's, wind speeds, visibility. I still think Mawson's own book is the best way to approach the expedition, but it's not for everyone.
Roberts' book (which I discovered through Staci - thanks!), is a great overview of Mawson and the 1912-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition(AAE). For an expedition that was supposed to be about collecting data, this foray was one dramatic episode after another. Besides choosing as their base the windiest place on dry land on the planet, they had to endure malfunctioning equipment, whiteout conditions, last minute plans that left members stranded on the ice for months at a time, and colleagues that slowly lost their grip on reality. Mawson managed to hold it all together.
And he walked the walk. Literally. 300 miles - a big chunk of it by himself, alone, with the soles of his feet having peeled off.
Roberts' history is as good as any I've read. I appreciate how he describes the various diaries, memoirs and other sources form which he draws, how they agree and disagree. And his description of the Mawson collection at the museum in Adelaide toward the end of the end of the book gave me chills. I'd so love to visit it some day....more
I've always wanted to visit Iceland. All that cold weather, gloomy skies and knitting. And while this book's author clearly loves the country, after rI've always wanted to visit Iceland. All that cold weather, gloomy skies and knitting. And while this book's author clearly loves the country, after reading about her experiences living there for a year, I kind of want to go there a little less. I still want to go, but I suppose if I ever do, it will be with fewer aurorae in my eyes.
Moss is an English professor who takes an opportunity to teach literature classes in Reykjavík for a year. While there with her husband and two young boys, she explores and writes about different aspects of Icelandic culture and history -- the recent economic problems, the growth of the economy in the post-war years, concepts of family, social equality, and even the rules of the road.
Sometimes, Moss can write in the most poetic ways about the people she meets. I never really felt like I knew them -- there characterizations were removed and fell a bit flat for me. But then she would write the most beautiful phrases about them. She has a lot of anxiety about living in Iceland and worrying about not getting what's going on around her. As an American reader, some of her explanations needed even more translating from her British perspective, sometimes.
I learned a lot about modern Iceland from reading this book, but not as much about it's past. There was a whole chapter that focused on knitting, which, as a knitter, I really enjoyed. It was oddly combined with the concept of shame in Icelandic culture -- which sounds weird, but it worked.
It was an odd book, but overall, I liked it. One criticism -- for all the myriad placenames used throughout the book, it should have come with a map....more
I kind of hate it when some form of artistic output, whether it be a film, a song, or a book, is described as "a love letter," but I don't think I'veI kind of hate it when some form of artistic output, whether it be a film, a song, or a book, is described as "a love letter," but I don't think I've ever read a work of nonfiction that better captures a person's love of place. Nicolson, who inherited the Shiant Islands in the Hebrides from his father at the age of 21 (and passed them on to his own son when he reached the same age, seeks to write down everything he can about these 500 acres in the middle of the sea that he knows so well. He interviews and works alongside geologists, historians, archaeologists, sailors, boatwrights, shepherds and biologists to find out all he can about this place that has captured his heart. Along the way the reader learns about puffin behavior, raising sheep, tides and currents, Scottish history, clan rivalries, early Irish missionaries -- it's amazing the wide range of topics that have a connection to this special place.
But Nicolson is at his best when describing his personal interaction with the landscape of the Shiants and the people around them. His writing is quite poetic and is to be savored. I loved his descriptions of simple walks around the islands in all kinds of weather, spent observing the grass, birds, sea and skies. And no wonder, considering his pedigree. It wasn't until the end that he let on that his grandmother was Vita Sackville-West. He writes better than anyone about the idea of "islandness" -- how an island can at once represent extreme isolation and the most intimate community....more
I vaguely remember hearing about this event in a book I read about survival, but I'd kind of forgotten about it. How could I?
Zuckoff entertwines theI vaguely remember hearing about this event in a book I read about survival, but I'd kind of forgotten about it. How could I?
Zuckoff entertwines the tale of WWII Coast Guard and Army Air Force personnel crashed and stranded in eastern Greenland with a recent expedition to locate the wreckage and remains. I felt like the modern-day characters, with the exception of a few, were kind of glossed over. I didn't mind too much, though, because the WWII story was so compelling.
The story makes for some heartbreaking reading. I marveled at the ingenuity of men who could cobble together radios out of parts, figure out how to build relatively comfy snow caves, and at a fundamental leve, figure out ways to get along with each other in extreme conditions. The number of planes and personnel involved got a bit overwhelming, as they rescuers became the rescued and military brass tried to figure out how to haul men off the Greenland icecap by dogsled, tractor and planes. It's a bit sad that none of the men who endured this lived to see the results of the modern-day recovery team.
The rescue attempt is compelling as well, once it gets out on the ice. The modern group might not have had the same discipline and stamina as the men from 70 years ago, but they were just as resourceful when everything seemed to be going wrong....more
I read Figes' The Whisperers almost 5 years ago and really enjoyed it. It's one of the first books I entered in Goodreads, although I'm befuddled asI read Figes' The Whisperers almost 5 years ago and really enjoyed it. It's one of the first books I entered in Goodreads, although I'm befuddled as to why I didn't write anything about it at the time.
Just Send Me Word is an even more focused way of looking at life in Russia during Stalin's regime. While The Whisperers used personal stories to look at the overall reign of oppression, Just Send Me Word focuses more narrowly on the Gulag system, as described in the letters exchanged between one of the prisoners and his fiance. They saved these thousands of letters and donated them to the Russian human rights organization, Memorial. The author was able to visit this amazing couple in their old age.
The letters frame the history nicely. Figes uses the letters that Lev and Sveta sent to each other to point out how the Pechora labor camp worked. How these two kept their sanity during their 15-year separation is evident in the letters. These are two loving, intelligent, caring, creative and brave people. Reading these letters can feel a bit voyeuristic at times, but what a gripping way to present history. I'm so glad that these letters, and Lev and Sveta, survived....more
I wasn't sure that a writer could sustain an entire book-length work on Antarctic food history. I was really, really wrong. Anthony, with many seasonsI wasn't sure that a writer could sustain an entire book-length work on Antarctic food history. I was really, really wrong. Anthony, with many seasons of Antarctic experience at McMurdo station and other locations around the continent, expertly uses food (and hunger) as a focal point around which he recaps the history of the human presence at that end of the world.
I was familiar with many of the earlier stories surrounding expeditions, surviving on a mix of pemican and biscuits, from which the titular "hoosh" is made, and supplementing it with the local fauna. I was kind of horrified at the carnage of penguins and seals, but Anthony does a good job of looking at explorers' varying attitudes toward these animals -- and the ways in which they tried to make them palatable. Savoury seal brains on toast, anyone? There's a recipe in the index...
The latter part of the book shifts toward modern-day efforts to feed and satisfy scientists and workers at McMurdo Station, the Amundsen-Scott station at the south pole, and other remote locations around the continent. The combinations of extreme temperatures, extreme distances and high altitudes require a mind-boggling amount of planning and creativity. And some of the stories of what people will get up to in order to obtain the foods they crave are pretty funny. If there's any job description that requires skill, ingenuity, creativity, resourcefulness and creativity, it has to be Antarctic Chef.
The penultimate chapter has a haunting description of the men, food and conditions at Russia's Vostok station that is particularly well-written....more
I was about two thirds of the way through this book before I realized I'd read this author before. I must've picked up this book based on a review thaI was about two thirds of the way through this book before I realized I'd read this author before. I must've picked up this book based on a review that mentioned House of Rain, but I'd since forgotten. Childs has such a wonderfully descriptive way of writing. And I love how his poetic descriptions contrast with the rather robustly scientific bibliography he provides. This bibliography is divided into landscapes and processes (oceans, deserts, tectonics) that don't necessarily match up with the chapters -- something that positively reflects his wide-ranging interests and big-picture view of our planet's many environments.
Child's combines travel -- and by that I mean wandering-through-deserts, kayaking-down-rivers, digging-in-glaciers kind of travel -- with current thinking on the many ways the earth has suffered and survived great change. He explores desertification, glaciation, extinction, volcanism, sea-level changes, tectonics, asteroid bombardment and more. Without getting preachy, he lays out what has happened via these processes, and what some think the future holds. A great mix of science and travel writing....more
I love books about Arctic and Antarctic exploration, and this is one of the better ones I've read lately. It covers a relatively unknown, but quite unI love books about Arctic and Antarctic exploration, and this is one of the better ones I've read lately. It covers a relatively unknown, but quite unusual, attempt to reach the north pole by balloon in 1897. S. A. Andrée's attempt seems foolhardy in hindsight, but one can't help but admire his bravery and drive to try something that had never been tried before.
In addition to describing Andrée's interest in ballooning and Arctic exploration, he goes into detail about some other attempts at the pole - from the ho-hum to the downright disastrous, including expeditions led by Adolphus Greely, Charles Francis Hall's Polaris expedition, and Fridtjof Nansen's Fram expedition.
I liked how the narrative worked in the second half, moving between what the balloonists experienced and how their loved one's dealt with their increasingly long absence. Overall this book was an excellent overview. My only gripes are that there were no captions for the photographs. And although there was one map, it was microscopically tiny and seemingly randomly inserted in the book. The last paragraph gave me chills....more
It had been such a long time since I'd read the previous books that I had to rely on resources like A Wiki of Ice and Fire to catch up, although I hadIt had been such a long time since I'd read the previous books that I had to rely on resources like A Wiki of Ice and Fire to catch up, although I had to do so carefully in order to avoid spoiling things for myself. But it was indispensable in bringing back to mind the myriad characters.
As with many long-ranging series, I kind of feel like I'm riding this train because it's easier than getting off. I have just enough interest left in some of the characters that I'm willing to keep reading, but it is becoming more of a chore. I appreciate the size and scope of the tale, but reading it is starting to take up a lot of energy. The payoffs, to me, are getting farther and farther apart. Still, I'll come back for more.
Had to take a pause in the middle of this because I couldn't finish the e-book in the two weeks allotted by my public library -- then had to get in line to check it out again. Fun fact -- Overdrive "remembered" where I'd left off. I wasn't aware it could do that. Nice....more
I can't believe I've made it this far through life without reading this. I've always been aware of it, but just never got around to it. Recently, afteI can't believe I've made it this far through life without reading this. I've always been aware of it, but just never got around to it. Recently, after discussing with a friend the fact that I didn't read science fiction much any more, I got to thinking I should. It's practically all I read through high school. But for some reason, I drifted away from it.
This is a great book with which to get back at it. I don't want to go into all the details -- it's a wonderful story, full of Le Guin's masterful takes on gender, sociology, religion and anthropology. Plus, it takes place on a cold planet, known to outsiders as Winter. Bonus.
This is one of those books that seems like a cute idea, but turns out to be so much more than it appears.
The author, inspired by a story presented byThis is one of those books that seems like a cute idea, but turns out to be so much more than it appears.
The author, inspired by a story presented by one of his students, decides to go find out what happened to a bunch of plastic bath toys that fell off a container ship in the northern Pacific in 1992. IN the course of his adventures, he meets and hangs out with the people mentioned in the subtitle, plus toy manufacturers, container ship captains, Arctic scientists, and other characters in an exploration of the economy of modern things and how they get to us. If they ever do get to us.
Throughout the book Hohn does that thing good teacher's do, drawing together what we're learning about these seemingly simple toys and making connections with epic literature, mostly notably Moby Dick. It would be easy to do this in a ham-handed way, but Hohn does it well. In addition to making me think about all the little things around me and how they got to me, and it made want to read Moby Dick again....more
I generally enjoy anything I read about the colder parts of the world, and this was no exception. It was quite different than many of the books I've rI generally enjoy anything I read about the colder parts of the world, and this was no exception. It was quite different than many of the books I've read lately, though. Rather than being a history of a particular area or person associated with the Arctic, this book reads like a series of journalistic pieces, which, in a sense, they are. Over the course of several years, Wheeler visits various areas around the Arctic. Chapters are set up by region, covering the Russian far east, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Lapland, and back around to Northwest Russia.
In between short historical vignettes, she meets with locals and scientists, exploring the outlook of those who live in (and make their living in) the far north. Throughout are several warnings about the environmental and cultural pressures imposed from the southern parts of the world -- some of this makes for some grim reading. But I enjoyed Wheeler's writing style, which can be quite poetic. The librarian in me loved the various books and authors she invokes, several of which I recognized and a few of which I'd read. ...more
I read through this much faster than I thought I would, considering it's size. I love reading books about cold places, and Frazier doesn't disappoint,I read through this much faster than I thought I would, considering it's size. I love reading books about cold places, and Frazier doesn't disappoint, although much of the book describes traveling through Siberia in the summer.
Frazier mixes historical information with his own experiences in Russia over a 20-year period. He works these two together rather seamlessly, I think. He doesn't pull any punches, describing both Siberia's beauty and it's harshness. He travels by train, car, car-on-a-train, and plane, describing the cities, industries, weather, people and history that make the concept of Siberia so compelling. If you have any interest in this part of the world, read it....more
I love books about cold places, and try to read one in the summer. This summer's is Arctic Labyrinth.
I was already somewhat familiar with many of theI love books about cold places, and try to read one in the summer. This summer's is Arctic Labyrinth.
I was already somewhat familiar with many of the attempts at finding the Northwest Passage described in this book. Williams doesn't skimp on detailing the trials and deprivations of early attempts, but his focus is on how the methodology of attempts changed over time, and using documentary evidence to do so. He especially excels at pointing out the discrepancies amongst official accounts, published narratives, and private journals and correspondence concerning various journeys.
I have to be really interested in a topic to consult the research notes at the back of books (I'm lazy and prefer footnotes), but Williams section on Sources and Further Reading is a wonderful document. Written in paragraph form, he suggests reference books, points the reader to the best biographies of various explorers, and lists manuscripts and archives he consulted. I'ts much more, well, dynamic than a dry list of sources and it shows the level of scholarship and work that went into producing this book.
My only complaint about this book is that, while there were a few maps, most of the time I found myself consulting the map on page 175, a general map of the Canadian Arctic. A few place names are listed, but by no means all of the ones named in the various attempts described in the book. And there are no tracks outlining all the various routes taken. A map accompanying each chapter with marked routes would have made for easier reading.
An excellent overview of the search for the Northwest Passage. I've read enough books on this topic now, but Brandt wrote in a way that still made itAn excellent overview of the search for the Northwest Passage. I've read enough books on this topic now, but Brandt wrote in a way that still made it interesting. Although the title would lead you to believe that the whole book is about Franklin, it's really not.
Well written and as good a book on the topic as you'll find. I especially liked how Admiralty politics were covered without making them seem dry. The last paragraph is quite haunting and thought-provoking. I won't repeat it here, but it involves The Meal That Dare Not Speak It's Name......more
I heard about this book in a NYT op-ed piece by David Brooks, of all people. He wrote it in the context of how amazing the Norwegians are on skis in tI heard about this book in a NYT op-ed piece by David Brooks, of all people. He wrote it in the context of how amazing the Norwegians are on skis in the winter Olympics. I think he needed to make a deadline, so he summarized a book he read once. Kind of lame, but still, it pointed me to an amazing story.
Toward the end of WWII, Jan Baalsrud was one of a group of Norwegian commandos who trained in Scotland and traveled to the northern coast of Norway with the intention of working with the local populace in resistance against their Nazi occupiers. Right away their plan went horribly wrong and within a few days of reaching the Norwegian coast, Baalsrud found himself alone, running from German soldiers across a tiny frozen island with only one shoe and part of his big toe blown off.
After a narrow escape to the mainland and a bit of recuperation, Baalsrud decided to cut his losses and head for the Swedish border with a mind to making his way back to Britain in order to get back into the fight. What should have been a trip of a few days covering only 40 miles turned into an excruciating ordeal involving avalanches, snow-blindness, frostbite, gangrene, delirium, penknife amputations, and weeks buried in snow caves while a network of loyal locals risked their lives and their communities to try and get Baalsrud to safety.
This is an amazing story. It was originally written about 10 years after the events that take place in the book, and it does seem a bit dated. But the black and white photographs (taken by the author visiting the scenes of events later?) add to the sense of bleakness in the whole story. And since it involves harrowing experiences at subzero temperatures, I had to like it.
My sister-in-law gave me this book for Christmas and I enjoyed it. I'd read Mawson's Home of the Blizzard awhile back and enjoyed it. This biography oMy sister-in-law gave me this book for Christmas and I enjoyed it. I'd read Mawson's Home of the Blizzard awhile back and enjoyed it. This biography of Mawson was different, though, expounding on all of his Antarctic visits and explorations, whereas Home of the Blizzard focused on the 1911-1913 Australian Antarctic Expedition.
Riffenburgh writes eloquently about the hardships that Mawson and his colleagues experienced during their time in Antarctica, including the famous sledging journey in which Mawson lost his two companions and narrowly escaped death himself. The author doesn't try to whitewash Mawson as Australia's hero of exploration -- he doesn't shy away from pointing out his shortcomings and conflicts with others. But he does paint a fair picture of an amazing scientist in his element. ...more
There were many things that drew me to this book -- a fascination with the north and the cold, interest in things medieval, and a soft spot for storieThere were many things that drew me to this book -- a fascination with the north and the cold, interest in things medieval, and a soft spot for stories about complicated family relationships told over generations. Kristin Lavransdatter has all this in spades.
But reader beware -- this story is long. I can't remember the last time it took me this long to read a book. And this edition would have been well-served with a more detailed map of geographic areas in the novel (almost characters in themselves) and with family trees plotting out the myriad ways the many characters in this story were interconnected.(Note: I've since found this chart on Wikipedia)
These minor gripes besides, I enjoyed this. Each chapter breaks down into little vignettes -- some long dialog-heavy expository sections, others elegantly described landscapes and emotional states. Although the writer was describing a culture that I'm quite unfamiliar with, and though much of the book describes a developing religiosity that bordered on the tedious a times, the humanity of the characters never failed to shine through. A sort of post-saga saga.
The title character, of course, is the center around which the rest of the novel revolves -- basically covering her life from her ealiest memories to her life's end. But it was always interesting when, every once in a while, the author took a break to jump into the heads of some of the other characters.
The author of the introduction classes this novel among the ones that few people read more than once. I'd have to agree. Once is probably enough for this novel, but I know that parts of it will stick with me for some time....more
My friend Donna and I have a thing for reading books about cold places, usually when it's hot out. I'd wanted to read this in the summer when it was bMy friend Donna and I have a thing for reading books about cold places, usually when it's hot out. I'd wanted to read this in the summer when it was blazing hot, but my local public library had a long waiting list and it didn't pop up. I ended up reading this just a few days before snow flurries were forecast in my area.
However, Streever must have been of a mind with my thinking, because he organizing his book by the months of the year, highlighting the vagaries of temperature and its effects in his neck of the woods (Alaska)at those times. And he starts in summer -- but as about as far north as you can get during the summer.
Streever intersperses information about the history of measuring cold and it's effects on our environment - he writes particularly well about the biology of hibernation and the effect of cold on people and animals. As he travels throughout the year, he contrasts the places he visits with the weather back home in interesting ways.
This book reminded me a bit of other books I've read recently about cold and cold places, notably Mariana Gosnell's Ice (which I read before my Goodreads days), but this one was a bit different. It managed to impart pretty technical scientific info in an almost literary way. ...more
I'm so glad I followed Janelle's recommendation and read this book. It dovetails so nicely with so many interests of mine -- complicated family lineagI'm so glad I followed Janelle's recommendation and read this book. It dovetails so nicely with so many interests of mine -- complicated family lineages, the north, cold places, and, rather tangentially, sheep and knitting.
I kind of figured out what was up pretty early on, but that didn't other me. I was happy to let the story unfold. A wonderful novel about family and heritage.
I ran across an excerpt from this novel in The Ends of the Earth and was quite taken, so I thought I'd give it a chance. Very glad I did.
How to descriI ran across an excerpt from this novel in The Ends of the Earth and was quite taken, so I thought I'd give it a chance. Very glad I did.
How to describe this book? Its subtitle describes it as "an epic," and it is indeed that. The story centers around Bjartur, the patriarch of a small sheep-farming family in early 20th century Iceland. Bjartur, whose primary goal in life is to remain independent of anyone else, follows this path to an extreme that brings unimaginable hardship to his family. He's not evil, but a very hard, very driven man. You might imagine what life with such a person could be like.
Although the book centers on a few main characters, principally Bjartur and his daughter, his sons and his mother-in-law are also portrayed uniquely -- each one responding to Bjartur and the farm on which they live in their own way.
I loved this book. It's multi-layeredness calls for multiple readings. Highly recommended.
Reader Beware: If you don't want to know what's going on before you dive into it, I recommend skipping the introduction to this edition. Spoiler city....more
It's not entirely fair to compare this book with The Home of the Blizzard by Douglas Mawson, but since I read them back to back, and since both authorIt's not entirely fair to compare this book with The Home of the Blizzard by Douglas Mawson, but since I read them back to back, and since both authors spent overlapping seasons in Antarctica, I can't help looking at them side by side.
I enjoyed both, but Cherry-Garrard's account was a little harder to follow. I thought that Mawson was better able to synthesize the reports and diaries of his fellows than was Cherry-Garrard. And while Cherry-Garrard emphasizes the scientific emphasis of the Terra Nova Expedition in order to contrast Scott's tragedy from Amundsen's triumph, I still felt that the scientific endeavors of Mawson's account are more clearly outlined and explained.
However, there are parts of Cherry-Garrard's writing that just captivated me. The whole chapter about the winter Journey that he, Bill Wilson and Birdie Bowers, made across 120 miles (round trip),in -70 degree temperatures, in the dark, to collect the eggs of some Emperor Penguins just floored me.
Knowing hardships and deprivations that Scott's Terra Nova Expedition endured, you can't help but admire anyone who spent time in Antarctica in the early 20th century. After reading the whole book, the last sentence will knock your thick woolen socks off....more
I really enjoy reading books about polar exploration. There's something fascinating, terrifying, and inspiring about these stories. I ran across a segI really enjoy reading books about polar exploration. There's something fascinating, terrifying, and inspiring about these stories. I ran across a segment of this book reprinted in The Ends of the Earth and it made me want to read the whole thing.
The Australian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914, led by Douglas Mawson sought to map out and explore the geography, meteorology, and wildlife of Adelie Land, the portion of Antarctica which faced Australia. Unlike other explorers on the continent at the time (Amundsen and Scott, notably), they weren't trying to bag the pole.
The books is written rather straightforwardly, taken from the detailed diaries of the three main expedition groups. Wind speeds, temperatures, and other meteorological phenomena abound! But there is also some moving and excellent writing here. A sample:
"We dwelt on the fringe of an unspanned continent, where the chill breath of a vast, polar wilderness, quickening to the rushing might of eternal blizzards, surged to the northern seas. We had discovered an accursed country. We had found the Home of the Blizzard."
For weeks, teams would move out across the coast and into the interior of Antarctica, braving glacial crevasses, frostbite and starvation to try and learn more about this harsh, remote place. I can't even imagine doing a tenth of what these people did.
The most amazing part of this years-long ordeal describes the journey of Mawson and two colleagues hundreds of miles across the ice. A few accidents reveal the razor-thin margin of error that exists in a brutal place like Antarctica, and Mawson has to find his way back to his home base, alone, across a hundred miles of ice, with the soles of his feet coming off.
This book isn't for everyone, but if you like books about exploration and humans surviving in harsh environments, give it a try....more
My good friend and colleague Donna got me hooked on the idea of reading about cold places during our hot Texas summers. I've always been interested inMy good friend and colleague Donna got me hooked on the idea of reading about cold places during our hot Texas summers. I've always been interested in exploration in general, and summer is the perfect time to be reading about frostbite, glaciers, penguins and polar bears.
The Ends of the Earth is two anthologies of essays about the Arctic and the Antarctic, each collected by separate editors.I believe this also appears in a 2-volume boxed version, but the edition I read had them back-to-back -- or top-to-bottom-rather. To read the essays about the other end of the world, one has to flip the book over. This tickled me way more than it probably should have.
(As a librarian, I knew that there would have to be one cover that would have to be considered the "front." People just can't deal, otherwise. As I predicted, the publisher and the catalogers, with their north-centric brains, chose the Arctic. The publisher's barcode appeared on the cover for the Antarctic side, while the library's barcode appeared inside the cover of the Arctic side. Just sayin'. This reminded me of an extra-tough cataloging assignment from back in my library school days. But I digress...)
The essays are a wide range of explorer's diaries, fiction stories, journalist's accounts, folk tales and essays by naturalists. They really do work together to invoke the idea of these two very different parts of the world. I found myself wanting more older writing about Antarctica, but it makes sense that its shorter human history would make for newer writing.
There is some great writing within these pages, and I've already selected several full-length titles that I'd like to read from this, including: