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The Solitude of Thomas Cave

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  444 ratings  ·  54 reviews
In 1616, as the last warm days dwindle in the north Atlantic, the men on an English whaling ship prepare to head home. But there is one exception among them: the quiet, headstrong Thomas Cave. Cave has made a bet with the rest of the crew that he can spend a winter on this Arctic island--alone. His shipmates sail away, the days shorten, and the cold weather moves in. Thoma ...more
Audio CD, 1 page
Published October 1st 2007 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  444 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people going through a hot summer--it cools you off nicely.
Shelves: recently-read
This novel about survival in the far north & how it affects the rest of Thomas Cave's life is written quite gorgeously. Periodically it includes Thomas's journal entries--& these are no exception, which undercuts the author's occasional assertion that he is a man of action rather than words. If he did not wield words well, he wouldn't have the capacity for such deep & subtle thinking.

Exploring the long-term effects of his prolonged experience of hyper-cold is a fascinating undertaking; I'm not s
Rebecca Johnson
Beautifully written, but only gave it three stars because I thought Harding gave short shrift to the actual substantive part of the book (the isolation). I felt that the winter passed too quickly.
C.C. Thomas
I will start with what I loved about this book. I loved the way it was written. The words are measured and flowing and easy. Reading it was no hardship and the prose seems to just take the reader like a stream carrying a leaf, bobbing along easily. It felt as if this book were written decades ago and reminded me of my favorite classic authors, like Dickens. I loved the subject of whaling and the Arctic and eagerly gobble up any books on this topic. It's such an alien, foreign adventure and I alw ...more
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm wondering if I'm being too stingy with 4 stars instead of 5. I'll write the review and then reconsider. First, the prose is absolutely beautiful. Second, the subject matter: an individual manuevering the complexities and pain of life--is not only well done but insightful! The setting 1600's, whaling ship, Greenland--is fascinating. I love psychological novels and this novel fits that description. There is a bit that is disturbing which revolves around animal cruelty and since I was listening ...more
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Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Either writers really like writing about the Northern sea, whaling, and surviving in the polar ice, or I have a prediliction for choosing the only ones out there. This is the story of a whaler who takes a bet that he cannot survive alone on a northern island (off of Greenland) throughout the winter. He is provided with a cabin, a gun, and enough stores from the ships for 5 men to survive. I suppose the focus was how does a person survive psychologically in the cold and dark for months on end. In ...more
May 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up from the public library looking only for an adventurous tale of the sea and the arctic, barely glancing at the descriptions on the cover flaps. It was a propitious whim, for while it is not a book of high adventure, reading its quiet pages of beauty and sorrow brought me instead to a place of my own solitude and reflection. Very enjoyable.

Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A simple story that doesn't want to dazzle the reader. It's only purpose is to tell a compelling story of survival and the things from our past, present and future that drive us to continue. Brilliant first novel.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Not at all.' Cave spoke calmly against the Mate's swagger. That calm in his voice gave it a power, and I was drawn to it and forgot all else as it ran on into philosophy in that stark midnight light. I remember the eeriness of the light and the coolness of his voice: 'A man never knows what is or is not possible until he has tried it.' - Pg. 17
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up in the bargain bin in my local bookstore and was very pleasantly surprised. Capturing the eerie isolation and stark beauty of Caves wintry outpost, while adhering to a very traditional form of story-telling, this is beautifully told, a real winters night read.

Thomas Cave takes on a wager to winter in a remote isolated shelter in the Arctic; his crewmates on the whaling ship the Heartsense, leave him, convinced that he will not survive the harsh, dark winter months and lonely isola
Jul 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, don't read this expecting a descent into madness by any means. Harding did a great job mimicking a pre-Victorian writing style, which added a feeling of authenticity. And luckily it lacked the true Victorian trait of extrapolating on scenery for page and after page. But at the end I felt cheated, as I wanted more suspense and psychological issues. The love story was realistic but, sadly, not overly romantic, which also was a let down. I don't think I'd read it again, but it was wor ...more
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ebook, kindle
I so much wanted to like this book more than I did. It was beautifully, *beautifully* written - atmospherically perfect. I felt the echoes of Defoe and Melville and, more than that, the descriptions of the north - the short summer and icy winter of Greenland, the harshness of whaling, it was all there.

But somehow, there wasn't anything in this book for me to grasp on to. I read it, loved the descriptions, and never connected to the story. It just didn't feel like a book that stood alone, only o
This book will probably appeal more to introverts, and as one, I (mostly) loved it. A lot of what "happens" is quiet and interior. Much of it is beautiful. I will however, give the warning that there is a plot-pivotal scene of animal abuse that is extremely disturbing. As in - for me anyway - the most disturbing scene I've ever read in a book. That was really hard to take, and left me rather conflicted about the bk, since I loved the rest of it (which actually hinged on that one scene, and would ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-2009
I liked this a lot. Almost as much as I'd hoped to from the description. Plenty of isolation and the examination of self that encourages. Plenty of vivid description of icy surroundings. I got so wrapped up in it that I lost track of how long ago it is set.

Interesting scribble on the title page too - someone, perhaps the author herself, has crossed out the final 'a' of Georgina and changed it to an 'e'. I love little puzzles like that!
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Bargain book. Thought it would be better than it actually was. Story is slow and lacks focus. Beautiful writing doesn't make up for the sloppy narrative. There are better novels about arctic survival. Read one of them.
Sue Edwards
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is my favourite ever book. I have read thousands and love the classics. This books language has a clear beauty in its lucidity. It transforms me, and that is all anyone ever wants from a book.
Thank you Georgina :)
Simon Brown
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did not want the great read to finish but needed desperately to know how it all played out, I was with him alone every second (curiously that means he was not really alone). Brilliant, picked up remaindered for $1. Best dollar ever spent.
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for this one at the time of reading, but I never really managed to get going with this. The writing and imagery is beautiful but I think I was looking for something else.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The prose in this book is haunting. I like reading about the 'old ways' and the whaling era was interesting. A well written story in the language of another century.
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Begins like a modern day Frankenstein, then slowly fades.
3.5 stars. It was no more or less than my expectation. I wished there were a little more...something...
Apr 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow-paced, thoughtful story of solitude, contemplation, man's effect on the world, and the presence/absence of god or devil.
An enigmatic and haunting tale that leaves a lingering mystery and much to consider. The one thing that marred this novel was the passing reference to deliberate and disturbing cruelty—which, at best, was as unsettling as it was mindless.


“But is a man’s diary ever the truth? Isn’t it always an invention, an idea of a possible truth which he uses to control his understanding of himself?”

“The truth is that the hardest thing to bear through the frozen days has not been the dreams but the abs
H Gibson
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a book to be plowed through as it explores through different POVs the way in which we can experience solitude. Wonderful read. I highly recommend it!
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading The Solitude of Thomas Cave some weeks ago, but I put it down after just one chapter. Not because I didn’t like it – quite the opposite! I was so taken by the ideas, the prose, the images forming in my head, that I wanted to save the book for just the right day when I could get completely lost in it.

That day came a week ago and The Solitude of Thomas Cave has been echoing in my mind ever since.

The story begins in 1916, with a whaling ship sailing away south from the icy seas ar
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very short novel and I wasn't quite sure what to expect...historical fiction? Philosophical musings on the nature of the human soul? Survival story? Love (lost) story?

Turns out it's all of the above in compact, neat, poignant phrasing. I winced at some really horrible animal cruelty moments (PETA would not be happy with the seal killing), but aside from those brief paragraphs, I found the characters easy to relate to and the lead character quite compelling. The historical notes on life
Alumine Andrew
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favourite
I've always enjoyed stories of Polar exploration, both fiction and non-fiction. I think it's because incredible journeys have been undertaken which put men under such duress, they all seem a bit surreal. The true stories are often more unbelievable than the fictitious ones.

This story I loved. Told in a very precise and economical style, beautiful language and haunting imagery. Thomas Cave on a dare is left behind in the Far North to winter over on his own. He seems well equipped in all respects
Madam Pince
Jan 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
A sailor makes a bet with his crew-mates that he can spend a winter alone on an Arctic island. They leave him with food, shelter, and weapons, never expecting to see him again. In the remaining pages, he experiences hunger, freezing temperatures, vivid hallucinations, and meets the true face of God Himself. The wisdom he gains from nature is an attitude of calm in the face of the sheer chaos represented by the unadulterated wilderness. The language is poetic and gorgeous, the tale itself a lyric ...more
Nov 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-books
I really like "cold" books so this story of Thomas Cave being left on an island in Greenland in the early 1600s to survive the winter by himself should be right up my alley. During the long winter, Cave confronts the loss of his wife and son in childbirth as he flirts with madness. He is never the same after his return from solitude in the cold. Sometimes I find some British authors to be a bit aloof and The Solitude of Thomas Cave is one of those books for me; I like to be sucked in to a story. ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A treat of a birthday present - I read this while on the warm windy beaches of Southern Portugal which was perfect as its set in the icy tundra of the arctic. it's described as a parable and that it is - a lament for the horrors man is capable of (the image of that baby seal being flayed alive will be a hard one to shake) while reminding us of our inherent ability to deeply connect. it's also a paean to solitude as the space where that deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us takes ...more
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Georgina Harding is an English author of fiction. Published works include her novels Painter of Silence (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012), The Spy Game (shortlisted for The Encore Award 2011), and The Solitude of Thomas Cave.

She has also written two works of non-fiction: Tranquebar: A Season in South India and In Another Europe. She lives in London and the Stour Valley, Essex.

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