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True North: Travels in Arctic Europe

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The stark, vast beauty of the remote Arctic Europe landscape has been the focus of human exploration for thousands of years. In this striking blend of travel writing, history and mythology, Gavin Francis offers a unique portrait of the northern fringes of Europe. His journey begins in the Shetland Isles, takes him to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and on to Lapla ...more
Paperback, 266 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Birlinn Publishers
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Melki
As a travel writer, Gavin Francis is no Bill Bryson. He does not exude wit and charm, and his anecdotes are hardly side-splitting. Then again, it may be his subject matter. It would take an astonishingly brilliant writer to make many of the places this author visits seem warm and inviting.

Francis travels to the Shetland and the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, and Lapland.
There's a lot of boat trips, and some hitchhiking. Though his journey is not exactly spellbinding, he manages to
...more
Fiona
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Intelligent and beautifully written. From Shetland to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and Lapland Francis, a young Scottish doctor, takes us on a journey of discovery through the history of exploration of the far north, spanning over 2,500 years. His journeys often follow those of his predecessors, e.g. St Brendan, Viking settlers, the Moravians, Nansen, and he intertwines their stories with his. Although he meets locals and fellow travellers along the way, the book is not reliant on th ...more
Marina (Sonnenbarke)
Gavin Francis is a Scottish doctor working in Africa when he decides he's had enough of the Tropics and plans a trip to the European Arctic. He will visit Shetland, Faroe, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and Lapland.

I've become very interested in those regions after reading a book written by a Greenlandic shaman, Schamanische Weisheit für ein glückliches Leben (Einzeltitel Lebenshilfe), which is unfortunately unavailable in English. The author is the famous shaman Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, and, while
...more
Gill
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting enough book. My favourite part was about the Faroes.

Also, I now have some understanding as to why the Gulf Stream may start cooling, (but I'm not sure how long I'll be able to remember how this works!)
...more
Vicky
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Francis sets his compass and travels in the tracks of early explorers of the North, following their searches for ultima Thule, the furthest North, the limits of the known world. Starting in Unst, the northernmost of of the Shetland Isles, he travels to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, the Sápmi area of northern Scandinavia, and the Svalbard Archipelago.

Weaving together history and travelogue, and bringing in the stories of historical figures including Pytheas, Brendan the Navigator and Fridtjof N
...more
Frankie Saxx
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the way Gavin Francis interleaves the history of arctic exploration and discussion of the effects of climate change on the arctic with his personal travel narrative and modern impressions of the region.
Tschahu
Es war wirklich anstrengend das Buch zu lesen und es hat sich zwischendurch ziemlich gezogen fand ich. Allerdings habe ich es auch durch einen Urlaub unterbrochen. Das war jetzt das zweite Buch das ich aus der Reihe der Dumont Reiseabenteuer gelesen habe und es hat mir wieder nicht sonderlich gut gefallen. Beide Bücher waren allerdings vom gleichen Autor. An sich fand ich das Buch nicht wirklich schlecht allerdings war mir etwas zu viel Geschichte in den Büchern. Ich finde es zwar interessant we ...more
John Benson
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gavin Francis wrote this book on his travels to the remote islands of Arctic Europe and Lappland while living for a year in Antarctica. It is similar to Malachy Tallack's 60 DEGREES NORTH in that he covers similar ground. He, like Tallack, began his journey in the Shetland Islands, visited the Faroes, went on to Iceland and Greenland, and then circled back to Svalbard and Lappland. Both books had side themes to their travels. While Tallack's book explored sense of place in all the places he visi ...more
Imogen
3.5 stars
Good travel writing, not great. This book is peppered with human/personal anecdotes, tales from mythology and well-researched historical accounts detailing arctic explorations of the past. There are some intelligent insights into life in the North, particularly with regard to the challenges posed by tourism and climate change, for example. I was slightly disappointed to find that the entire trip was undertaken during the summer/early autumn, but I suppose camping in Svalbard in January
...more
John
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
A 3.5 star book. The travel elements, the meeting with people and the embedded history are all very interesting and I learned all sorts of things I did not know, but the pace of the book sagged in the middle because of the inclusion of much too much detail of the Icelandic and Greenland sagas.
Ken Greenberg
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great insight into the region we just came back from.
JoeyHatesJazz
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A good mix of travelogue, history and philosophy.
Laurel
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intelligent and beautifully written ode to the North. I enjoyed immensely Gavin Francis' carefully constructed balance of personal memoir, history, and mythology. ...more
Simon Yoong
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
pretty entertaining read, though the historical anecdotes lost me here and there. I actually thought the book was about the north pole, but was still a good surprise.
Karen
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most interesting.
Amy Doeun
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Such a great introduction to an area of the world I know little about but is not on my bucket list. I must go there. Especially to Lapland.
Snicketts
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This had a nice balance between the 'big issues' and personal observations. I particularly enjoyed the author's ideas on the enduring call of the north and why humans need it. The historical elements were well researched and interesting and there were not too many stories about scurvy and frostbite! The most fascinating conclusions for me were those relating to the Irish Mariners and the role of religion in the exploration of the Arctic. ...more
Babz
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-lit, 2009
This was my first forray into travel literature but I must say I enjoyed this book immensely despite taking quite a while to read. The north has always really appealed to me and it is apparent that the author feels the same way as well. I learned much of the history of exploration in Arctic Europe from reading this book, as well as being a joy to read the descriptions of the beautiful Arctic scenery it was educational. A beautiful book from start to finish, I would definitely recommend it.
Kathleen Gordon
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am, in fact, still busy with this book and I am loving it. I picked it up quite by chance and am now fascinated by a part of the world of which I have only scant knowledge.(except of course, if you were a fan of Prince Valiant in your youth, then you know all about the vikings and Ultima Thule). It is easy reading and full of exciting sagas - excuse me, I must get back to my reading.
Mandy Haggith
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was essential reading for my arctic journey in summer 2013. Good travel writing, well researched and full of interesting encounters with people and vivid landscape descriptions. It's a good analysis of how the arctic is a place where people make their livelihoods, not just a wilderness. ...more
Laura
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some truly evocative and thought-provoking passages, but for me, it felt confused as to whether it was a travel-book (descriptions of his own experiences were thin on the ground) or a summary of writings on Arctic travels.
Sheila
Feb 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, norway
I read the chapter about Svalbard.
Helenjshears
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Beautifully written, but not as reflective or profound as some other travel writers.
Fiona
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Jul 28, 2018
Joy Jarvie
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Apr 06, 2015
Crystal
rated it it was amazing
Jun 02, 2014
K. R. Grant
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Feb 28, 2018
Brandon Moskun
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Jul 05, 2017
Barb Wright
rated it it was amazing
May 04, 2020
Ka Man
rated it it was amazing
Feb 13, 2012
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Play Book Tag: True North by Gavin Francis - 4 stars 1 12 Jan 22, 2017 02:01PM  

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Gavin Francis was born in Scotland in 1975, and has travelled widely on all seven continents. He has crossed Eurasia by motorcycle, and spent a year in Antarctica. He works as a medical doctor as well as a writer.

When travelling he is most interested in the way that places shapes the lives and stories of the people who live in them.

His first book, True North: Travels in Arctic Europe, explores t
...more

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“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
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