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Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  31 reviews
What do we stand to lose in a world without ice?

A decade ago, novelist and short story writer Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent — Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. I
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by ECW Press
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3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  152 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I just love these meditative types of books and lately I have been attracted to books set in Alaska, the Arctic and the Antarctic. Such different places that are hard for me to imagine. Enjoyed that each chapter started with a description of a different type of ice, who knew there were so many. Also liked the clear and concise description of the differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic.
The author meets so many interesting people, experiences so many different things, things that make her
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book has everything I can ask for when I read a work of what I like to call creative non-fiction - she interweaves her own experiences (past and present) with conversations with people within those experiences and multifaceted research. The writing is vivid and brings me into her world of ice and cold. The way she captures isolation, the effect a landscape has on a person, the thoughts that go through your head when you are trapped at the bottom of the world - it is very powerful. If it wer ...more
Agnieszka Kalus
2,5. Za dużo autorki, za dużo niedomówień, za dużo histerii i paniki. Za mało lodu.
Arja Salafranca
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“The trick about Antarctica is knowing when to leave ...”
I’ve long been fascinated by the thought of visiting Antarctica, and in the absence of any possibility of visiting, at present, I have instead devoured books by those who have visited and lived on this vast icy continent. This book is easily one of the most memorable and evocative I have read – both a travel story as well as a personal memoir. Moving from her past growing up in Canada, to time spent in Antarctica as year as writer-in-resi
Mar 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I found this a difficult book to evaluate. It is based on the author's 4 month stay In Antarctica ten years ago. She displays great poetic/literary talent in vivid descriptions of dazzling, changing colours on gleaming ice fields and ice bergs.

I thought the book uneven and choppy in the transition of time, place and inner thoughts. There was some straightforward description of her time aboard ship and at the base, descriptions of the science of global warming she learned on her journey, and wa
Bruce Luyendyk
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, memoir
I am an experienced Antarctic veteran. This is a memoir of an Antarctic experience by a newcomer. It is crammed full of rich prose. In the spirit of Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, McNeil withholds no secrets. This kept me reading. Her descriptions of the landscape are unique and unexpected, like the Antarctic. Many times I read them and said "yeah, that’s how it is," or, "I’d never thought of it that way." She devotes a good portion of book to revealing the characters she became close to. They are con ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It took me some time to settle into this memoir/musing centred around the author's time as a writer-in-residence on a base in British Antarctica - it's slow-paced and contemplative (and somewhat too wordy) looping round and round the author's attempts to come to grips with the environment, its effect on her, and her eliptical interactions with others around her. But once settled, I found it absorbing and thought-provoking. Extraordinary place and well worth asking what it means to us. 3.5.
Karen Thomson
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I got irritated by this book and this author. I couldn't follow her timeline getting to the Antarctic and couldn't follow the story from her past. I didn't particularly like her, or maybe it was that I just couldn't get to know her. She wrote about her crippling anxiety, but so dispassionately that it was dull. I also couldn't buy into the whole "I have a gift for predicting the future". I missed the point of that. I hope she's a better fiction writer than non-fiction writer.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Reading through the list of Banff Book Festival Winners, this one was tough for me to get to and to finish. The beginning was confusing, because I wasn't aware that she had had the opportunity to go twice! I have always wanted to go to the Antarctic, especially on a research ship on someone else's dollar. I would happily take a science (I have a chemistry degree) or writer position. If only Canada bought the station that the Ukraine got. As a consolation prize I spend a fair amount of time in th ...more
Amanda Em
Oct 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
Sorry, but when I read that the author already bought the newest issue of "London review of Books" before the journey, because she CORRECTLY assumed that it will not be available on the Antarctica ...
OF COURSE it will not be available there. And what for?? And why would you assume such a thing? Because that is how we save the planet and the the Antarctica, right? By delivering - by plane - some stupid magazine to the other half of the Earth.Yup, that is how we are going to solve the issue. Why d
George Ilsley
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
A disappointing conglomeration. The text oscillates between Antarctica and the author's childhood in coyly unnamed Canadian locales. The Canadian sequences should have been most interesting, but the lack of specificity and lack of relevance to Antarctica made them eventually unreadable. I started to skip them and once that happens the book is essentially done. Much of the Antarctica descriptions are beautifully done, but this book as a whole just did not come together for me.
Janita Knowles
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am an Antarctic-tragic...can't get enough and my interest, curiosity, fascination is abiding and could possibly be verging on obsessive. I have faced the fact that it is VERY unlikely I will ever set foot on the continent. My personal library includes many books on the subject. This book however is the first one I have read from the point of view of an 'embedded' writer, whose sole purpose is to write from personal experience, over the course of the Antarctic summer. What a brainwave of an ide ...more
This felt like a very uneven book. On the one hand, the writing gets gorgeous and almost lush as McNeil attempts to convey the cold 'other' of Antarctica. Her philosophical musings are tangentially connected in a way that it feels like you're inside her head. On the other hand I found myself really annoyed by her remove in that there were constant musings on writing and how apart writers are from society (especially Antarctic) while scientists and pilots were portrayed like they know what they'r ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Yawn. I ploughed through a third of this book, but DNF.
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
Antarctica is probably my most favourite place to read about, but up to this point my reading has been largely confined to the books by/about the Antarctic explorers of the early 1900s (like Shackleton, Mawson, Scott, and Amundsen) and I was quite keen to read a contemporary take on the continent. So when I saw Jean McNeil’s Ice Diaries on NetGalley, it seemed like the perfect starting place.

Ice Diaries goes beyond McNeil’s Antarctic experience and touches on her past as well, specifically the f
Afreen Aftab
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5

‘The inhumanness of the Antarctic is unfamiliar. Standing on the bridge with Stuart, I could already feel how helpless would be in that nullius, that place where absence and emptiness rule. It is a zone of poetic force, a seemingly colorless place but yet home to the most alluring chromatic phenomena on the planet. The only place in the world that is nobody’s country. A utopia, an apocryphal vision, a conundrum. A hoax.’

The reason I picked this book up was because I love that combinat
Gillian Sullivan
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Had to take this out of the library twice as I couldn't get through it the first time (too... much... ice.... I live in Eastern Ontario and winter takes up half the year, it feels like)... but then I couldn't get it out of my mind, so borrowed it again to read the second half.
In the second half... so many glimpses of things that fascinate me (not related to ice):
P. 235 (secrets beyond our human perception): "...suddenly I shot up into the highest layer of the atmosphere, and beyond, into space,
Feb 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Although the synopsis describes it as a memoir, but “Ice Diaries” is more than that, or at least it tries to be. Much more science and detail-heavy than promised, the book nonetheless strives to introduce the reader to the Antarctic lifestyle in all its vastness, both the exciting parts that deal with how people interact and the social lives they lead, to the more complex and at times frustrating, the descriptions of machinery or procedures and protocol. The book brings out the distinction betwe ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This review and more can be found at Book of Bogan

This book surprised me at how charming I found it, although it took finishing the book, and taking some time to digest what I had just read for me to come to that realisation. I have read a number of biographies of Ernest Shackleton and other Antarctic explorers, including some of the works referred to in this book, and I guess I was expecting something more adventurous.

Ice Diaries is the author's journey - nominally as a writer, although she spe
Gord Jones
May 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I have read a few books about travels to the Arctic, but never one about the Antarctic. When I heard about Ice Diaries, by Jean McNeil, a writer from Nova Scotia, who was selected to travel to the Antarctic with a British scientific team, I knew I had to give it a read.

The book was very interesting but more eloquently written than I expected. At first I thought it would take away from the adventure of the story, but as I read on found, the eloquence actually added to it.

McNeil not only tells the
Ginni Brinkley
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
ARC from NetGalley - thank you.

Immediately after reading Ice Diaries, I felt it was a 3 star book, but I sat on the review for a while to give myself time to consider things a bit further. This was because it was rather different to the norm and I wanted to give it a chance to grow on me. Well, it did. I've amended it to 4 stars.

Ice diaries is part memoir, part scientific stuff about ice, and part Jean's recounting of what must have been an unforgettable few months in the most forbidding landsc
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir. The book is primarily about the authors 4 month stay in Antarctica, "at the bottom of the world". Her descriptions of what she finds there are vivid in color and description in a way that you, as the reader can see the ice and feel the cold. It is clear as the book progresses what impact melting ice, due to climate change will have on all of us. The book gets a bit scattered as it combines different times in the authors life, including from her childhood, and other ...more
Dominic Stones
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I suspect that it's hard to understand what it's like in Antarctica unless you've been there - McNeil tells us this throughout The Ice Diaries - but her descriptions, both of the physical landscape and her own reaction to it made me, as the reader, feel that I might have been given some understanding. She writes quietly and without arrogance. This is a beautiful book and McNeil's elegant, vivid language is a treat to read.
Dec 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: won
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. My opinion is just that...mine...and completely unbiased.

First let me say that I did not finish this book. I tried, but only got about half way, and had to throw in the towel. Ms McNeil is obviously a very good writer, but I found this to be tedious and muddled. It could just be that I was expecting coffee and was served tea, but I am sure there are many to whom this would suffice.
Jun 04, 2016 added it
Fascinating book on many levels: Antarctic travelogue exploring climate change, a very personal memoir, and a detailed exploration of how we connect with the world and our fellow human beings.
The editing for grammatical and other errors could have been more rigorous, but that's not the author's fault, and doesn't really impact the narrative of the work, which is compelling.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a Goodreads win review. I just loved this book. I love to read books where I learn something. This author spent a year as a writer in Antarctica. This place is the only place on earth which is nobody,s country. She also spent time in Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and Cape Town. Her book is part about her travels, science and her memoir all in one story. It is a very good read.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book but did not read the entire book. It may be an eloquent, descriptive story but I simply lost interest in the story after reading a few chapters, I read some parts of the remainder of the book, but skimmed through most of the chapters.
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
A rare combination of Antarctic science and human and literate experience of the place, without the usual survivalist point of view.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Myślałam, że ta książka będzie lepsza. Czytałam lepsze reportaże o lodzie, Antarktydzie czy Arktyce.
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Beautifully written and compelling personal account of a writer's experience in Antarctica.
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Jean McNeil is the author of ten books including four novels and a collection of short fiction. Her work has been short-listed for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Journey Prize, and she has won the Prism International prize for short fiction and subsequently for narrative non-fiction. She is the co-director of the Masters in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia and lives in ...more