Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North” as Want to Read:
Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  30 reviews
'We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?'

A message from the Finnish embassy launches Horatio Clare on a voyage around an extraordinary country and an unearthly place, the frozen Bay of Bothnia, just short of the Arctic circle. Travelling with the crew of Icebreaker Otso, Horatio, whose last a
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published November 9th 2017 by Chatto & Windus
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Icebreaker, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Icebreaker

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  184 ratings  ·  30 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North
Dannii Elle
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

When Finland celebrated their 100th year of independence they did so in a way that enabled the whole world to share in a slice of their culture, customs, and the overall wonder of their country. This way was to enlist renowned author, Horatio Clare, and install him on an icebreaking ship for eight-weeks. During this time he learned about the job he was witnessing, those who spent most of their lives aboard the solid seas, and the land they returned to when their shifts
Sometimes it is who you know, rather than what you know, that opens doors and opportunities and Clare had a friend had a contact in the Finnish Embassy. A message came via this link asking:

We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?

As the sea is a natural draw for Clare; his Down to the Sea in Ships travelling with the modern container ships was a quality piece of travel writing about a system that most people are blis
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. The cover was the best thing... as unfortunately the book does not do justice to the subject matter. Clare’s style just isn’t suited to this. At times he tries to elevate his writing with almost philosophical reflection, but doesn’t succeed. However, I thought his technical descriptions were fairly good for the general reader. As a seafarer myself, I just couldn’t help thinking he was a bit arrogant about the icebreaker and it’s hard-working crew. At one point he even writes that ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If someone asks you for a recommendation of a book about Finland- this one it it!
Loved learning about icebreakers, and the ice formation and also about Finnish history.
Stuart Cole
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, the book is a fascinating account of one voyage (effectively a work-shift) of an icebreaker (Otso) and her crew. Clare’s liking and respect for the men and women with whom he sails shine through, and you find yourself sharing his sympathy for the personalities - particularly Tem, the captain. The sinister undercurrent to the book is the environmental impact of humanity on the planet: global warming will result in the loss of the albedo, which will in turn will accelerate the ...more
Chris Aylott
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
British writer spends a few weeks on a Finnish icebreaker keeping the sea lanes open in the Bay of Bothnia. The first couple of chapters on land are a little shaky, as Clare never really gets beyond the stereotypes of Finnish culture. Once he settles down on board, though, he has a chance to closely observe the crew and their world. He has sharp senses for detail, voice, and character, and I found it easy to see and hear through him. An excellent look at life here in the north and how it is bein ...more
Rosario (
In Icebreaker, Clare jumps at the chance to spend some time on a working Finnish icebreaker. Not while it's on shore for the summer, but right in the winter, as it trundles along freeing stuck ships and helping get them to where they need to go.

To an extent, this suffers from some of the same problems as Sixty Degrees North. I wanted to know about icebreakers, but even though pretty much the entire book takes place on an icebreaker, there wasn't enough about icebreakers! I read the whole thing a
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
Some lovely writing, some cliches and quite a few misspelled Finnish names that would have been simple to fix...
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
The cold-lover in me wanted to enjoy this book; the degreed meteorologist could not.

Minor offenses include a stunning lack of detail on the ice environment for a book titled "Icebreaker." Here's a short list of things I had to use Google to figure out: what the icebreaker ship looked like, what the ice looked like, what the typical coverage of the ice would be and its proximity to land, how far they were from the arctic circle, the time of year they were at sea, approximate sun angle at the lati
Anna Iltnere (Beach Books)
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cosmic dust is covered in ice and gives stars their twinkle. Sea ice covers the polar saltwater and works as an Earth conditioner. Have you ever wondered, how amazing this solid form of water is? Ice has many different states and as much names. Northern seafarers now them well.

If interstellar ice may expand your awareness of space, then permafrost will blow up your sense of time. Deep inside the Arctic seabed is permafrost from the last ice age. It is many thousand years old and encapsulates hug
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Firstly, I have to admit that this would not have been my first choice of reading material. You see, I'm doing my local library's reading challenge at the moment, and I picked this book up for the 'not my bag' element. I really thought that it wouldn't be 'my bag' at all - but I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the interactions with the sailors, and the little history lessons were really interesting. There was a lot of description though. In a 220 page book, you would think that there would be ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great follow-up to dragging through a dense 500 pages is a light 200 page travelogue. Right book, right time. Clarke writes of spending several weeks on an ice breaker on the Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland. The book examines Finland and its people as well as considers global warming and its effect on the Far North. It handles Finland and the Finns well and probes a group of people I find interesting. I was less interested in the global warming topics, though obviously it's a conce ...more
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 21-9-18
I enjoyed this book as it describes a situation which seems likely to not be required in the near future. This will be a good record for future generations how ports were kept open in the Gulf of Bothnia. My one complaint is the lack of maps showing the area where the ice breaking took place. The background about the history of Finland was very interesting as it is something that rarely gets mentioned in any news items. It makes us realise just how little we know about our near neighbours.
Anna Sayburn Sayburn
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this poetic, funny and moving insight into a world I'd never even considered before. Clare somehow makes an ice-breaking ship in the middle of the Bay of Bothnia seem like the best place to be in the world. His descriptions of the ice, the crew and the boat are evocative. A testament to the quiet satisfaction people get from doing a job they love, and doing it well. ...more
Clare Diston
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Icebreaker is a really fascinating travel story, written by a master of his craft. It won’t take you long to read, but it will stay with you long afterwards. Definitely read it.

Read my full review on my blog:
Laura  (Reading is a Doing Word)
This was a delightful read. An interesting insight into Finnish history is married to an intelligent and empathetic observation of life on an ice breaker ship. The men are sensitively portrayed and the role of the ship is described beautifully. A joy to read!
The Pink Panther
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
He joins a Finnish icebreaker in the Baltic Sea, which sounds like dangerous work. With very few birds or animals on the ice it also has a feel of loneliness and bleakness, like a nightmare future world.
Tom Bennett
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Horatio Clare writes so well about the sea, ships and seafarers. Loved it.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
An engaging read which begins as a travel book and ends as a reflection on life. Well written, quirky and delightful!
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Quite interesting, but a pale shadow of his other shipping book.
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this. An eminently readable book, which makes ships and ice and icebreaking seem beautiful, while also discussing the effect of climate change on the work.
Oliver Williams
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Really struggled with this book, it was really slow and not particularly gripping. Essentially, a story of being on an icebreaker without any real tales of excitment.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
A delight to read, beautifully written prose. A melding of agency and reflection, and an insight into Finland's nature, both earthly and characterful. ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
My first Horatio Clare book but it certainly won't be my last. Beautiful, lyrical writer. ...more
Earl Adams
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
A beautifully written response to a coming New York summer heatwave. Clare is a lovely writer.
Derek Henderson
May 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Mildly diverting report. Unfortunately, I soon got tired of the author's voice. His occasional striving for depth and meaning falls flat, in my opinion. ...more
Asia H
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020, owned
Janet Brown
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
A beautifully written travelogue that does justice to Finland's scenery, history, and culture. However, as beautifully and vividly as the ice is described, it does get a little old at times and seems repetative. Overall the book is interesting throughout and is an enjoyable read. ...more
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
No time like the height of Summer to take to the frozen Bay of Bothnia and accompany Horatio Clare in Icebreaker (Chatto & Windus) as he joins the crew, keeping the sea lanes open and rescuing trapped ships from their frozen vices. Along the way Clare narrates far more about Finland and the Finns - a good introduction for anyone curious about Suomi - and also touches on the concerns for the climate crisis that he discovered more about in his time on board.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Seashaken Houses: A Lighthouse History from Eddystone to Fastnet
  • The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993--Illustrated Edition
  • Bengal Cats and Kittens: Complete Owner's Guide to Bengal Cat and Kitten Care
  • The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal
  • Data Science
  • The Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat: History, Character, Breeding, Showing, Health
  • Surviving the Storms: Extraordinary Stories of Courage and Compassion at Sea
  • Mail Rail: from Beginning to End: A brief history of the Post Office’s underground railway
  • Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals
  • The Creativity Code: How AI Is Learning to Write, Paint and Think
  • The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
  • Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography
  • Emperors of the Deep: Sharks--The Ocean's Most Mysterious, Most Misunderstood, and Most Important Guardians
  • This Place: 150 Years Retold
  • What I Remember, What I Know: The Life of a High Arctic Exile
  • The Foundling
  • The Stars of History: Charlie Chaplin
  • The Autograph Man
See similar books…
Horatio Clare (b. 1973) is a writer, radio producer and journalist. Born in London, he and his brother Alexander grew up on a hill farm in the Black Mountains of south Wales. Clare describes the experience in his first book Running for the Hills (John Murray 2006) in which he sets out to trace the course and causes of his parents divorce, and recalls the eccentric, romantic and often harsh conditi ...more

Related Articles

New year! New books! New this month: Scandal rocks an elite British boarding school in The Divines. A dark secret spans several...
90 likes · 38 comments