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The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica
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The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Antarctica is a vortex that draws you back, season after season. The place is so raw and pure, all seal hide and crystalline iceberg. The fishbowl communities at McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, and in the remote field camps intensify relationships, jack all emotion up to a 10. The trick is to get what you need and then get out fast.
    At least that’s how thirty-year-
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published May 6th 2010 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published 2010)
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3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  153 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, queer
Really enjoyed this one. First grown-up book I could stick with in a while ;)

Makes me want to go to Antarctica. Complex characters in a complex environment. I find the vastness and cold hard to grasp, yet you could feel it everywhere in the book.

Yes, too bad that the lesbian's relationship happened off the page, but really, her trip to Antarctica was about something else entirely.

I always like Bledsoe for writing about characters that are not always likeable, but so interesting that you want to
Elaine Burnes
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lesbian
I liked it, but one thing that really irked me was that Mikala, the only lesbian, found her love off the page, not at the Pole, with the others. Mainstream publisher, hardcover book, so you know she’s successful, and what happens to the lesbian? Her story, her sexuality, gets short shrift. I don’t know if it was exactly how Bledsoe wanted to tell it or if she bowed to pressure from the publisher, or the NSF for the grants she got to go to Antarctica. Aside from that, it’s a lovely story. You can ...more
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Had the location not been antartica, this would have been such a snooze. She may have received many writing awards but her language was too pedestrian for my taste. Cliques and common turns of phrase were rampant and not interesting at all. The story line was boring and her characters contrived. I only finished it since it was relatively short and fast paced, and not too annoying as some I have abandoned midway.
Very disappointing actually.
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Good thing about the book: set in Antarctica;
Bad things about the book: not one likable or interesting character;
everyone having sex without emotion or relationship, let alone love and commitment;
a supposed friendship between three women that was never developed or explained, apparently based on nothing
May 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Dull people do dull things in a dull place, all the while learning just the things they need in order to solve their most fundamental problem on returning to the USA. The most remarkable thing about this book is that is makes Antarctica seem boring.
May 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shallow tripe.
Sharon Wishnow-Ritchey
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a story like none other I've read in a long while. Lucy Jane Bledsoe uses the setting of Antartica to tell the stories of three women all living at McMurdo Station, the most remote location on earth. Bledsoe has made three trips to Antartica and brings the desolation, isolation, and beauty of this place to life.

The story unfolds as Rosie Moore is heading back to her third and what she expects is her final season as kitchen staff. On the same flight is a music composer, Mikala Wilbo who
Sandra Helen
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating novel about three women who travel to the South Pole to change their lives. Each is changed in a different, but believable, way. Rosie Moore wants to find her forever home (and will use the earnings from this trip to find it); Alice is finally leaving home for the first time at age 28; and Mikala is a composer seeking inspiration as well as her birth father. Their lives intersect, intertwine, and take interesting twists and turns along the way. The trip begins with a big bang and end ...more
Miriam Murcutt
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed the Antarctic setting in Bledsoe's book, and also reading about the lives and motivations of the zany and flawed characters she created. The doses of science and music she introduced sat easily within her story and made this book into a wide-ranging and fascinating read. This is the second of Bledsoe's novels I have read, and I intend to read more. Great book. I highly recommend it.
Colleen Irwin
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the premise~ Isolation in Antártica and subsequently the character development. All pretty unique. A quick read.
Sissy Van Dyke
Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-books
The Claustrophobia of Vast Spaces in The Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

In The Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, the reader is treated to a glimpse of life in one of the planet's least forgiving ecosystems, the frozen environs of Antarctica. From the first chapter, Bledsoe makes it clear that the Arctic is a place that is at once beautiful yet wonderful with unforeseen hazards and the unpredictability of nature. In this frozen wilderness, life of any kind is tolerated but never nurt
Arja Salafranca
Feb 11, 2012 rated it liked it
A novel about three women who journey to Antarctica: 30-year-old Rosie, back for her third season the ice; Mikala Wilbro, a composer there as part of the Writers’ and Artists’ programme, and Alice Neilson, a geologist. The three woman meet at various points, although the story is told separately, and their connections are only established quite a way into the story. Mikala has lost her lover, a woman, and is seemingly unable to feel or love again. Neilson, in her late twenties has never left hom ...more
Darlene Vendegna
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read this year, or maybe ever. The author weaves a fascinating tale of the search for identity, family and purpose in a backdrop of frigid temperature in the sparse landscape and pristine surroundings of the Antarctic. I could not put it down and now I'm sorry I finished so soon. The novel is written from the perspective of three very different women, who all travel to the Antarctic for different reasons. One a line cook planning to earn money to help her finally find ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, lgbt
Beautifully told story of three different women who come to Antarctica for various reasons... and what they find there. Some of the plot elements would have felt cliched in the hands of a different writer, but instead they felt new and original because of the way they were narrated and the way the characters unfolded. I loved the way people in this novel inspire and challenge each other, not only through romantic passion but through other kinds of human connection as well. The final scenes were ...more
Jul 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
reading for end of july book club. makes me want to go to antarctica where it's cold, especially with the heat wave going on here. love the book. once i got past the first quarter of it, it got easier as it is a story told with three narratives so at first was a bit confusing and frustrating as i wanted to find out more about a particular character and then it would switch. it was a nice read considering the temperatures have been in the 3 digits here in atlanta. i was trying to cool off vicario ...more
Oct 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Another one of my "grab five books off of the new fiction shelf before my kids rip the pages out of anything" books, This book explores the long term ramifications of short-term relationships in an unforgiving environment. The writing was fantastic, the characters were well defined and believable, the descriptions of life at the pole were intriguing (5 stars). However, the book ended up being more about the vagaries of sexual hook-ups than anything else (1 star). An interesting look into hedonis ...more
May 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really didn't think I was going to like this book. I am participating in a global reading challenge and I'm suppossed to read two novels from each continent. Not surprisingly it's kind of slim pickingss from Antarctica. But I actually really enjoyed this book. It was really interesting to get a glimpse into what living in a research station at the South Pole was like. I thought the characters were well developed and intersting.

The ending wrapped up a little bit too neatly for me, but otherwis
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I upgraded this book from 3 to 5 stars on my second reading, several years after my first. The writing was beautiful, the setting mesmerizing, and the story moving. Themes of coming to terms with loneliness, and making sense of the creative process spoke to me deeply at this stage in my life. Some of the characters were overly romanticized, and some of the descriptive language was clichéd, but overall this book provided deep comfort during a challenging time in my life, for which I will be forev ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Frigid cold seems to lead to baring of souls and profound realizations. The three protagonists --an uber-rational scientist, a wholly consumed by her art composer, and a wanna-be-home-centric free spirit -- have relationships with each other that are not wholly believable, but when the alternative is no relationship at all, it makes sense. Tragedy, near or realized, book ends the story in ways believable and frightening.
Elizabeth Olson
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Ben Mann
Shelves: fiction, read-2011
The research bases and camps of Antarctica attract scientists, artists, and drifters, all hoping to making the discovery of their lives. None of them are completely prepared, though, for the effect of the landscape on their minds and emotions -- nor are they prepared for the effect they have on each other. Bledsoe's depiction of the inhospitable continent is convincing, as are the ways the multiple protagonists are changed by their time there.
James R
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it
There's much to appreciate about this fast moving account of a season on the ice of Antarctica. The pay off for me was the speculation about the role of music in the creation of the universe and translation of that idea into a symphony. Reminded me of Greg Bear's premise in Songs of Earth and Power. The relationships among the three primary characters didn't hook me so much, but the descriptions of the continent and its effect on people was often quite compelling. It's a good quick read.
Sep 17, 2010 rated it liked it
I was on the fence pretty much through the first half of the book...I couldn't get comfortable with the characters and I wanted more Antarctica and less relationships and hook ups that seemed so casual and shallow. By the end of the book, however, it all felt a little better...and I was invested in the group of friends that developed and wished them the very best.
Sep 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
Well, I was not impressed. The backdrop was amazing--Antarctica!--but this was a dud of a book. As far as I could tell, it was just about random people running around having--or trying to have--sex with each other. Just lust running loose on the continent, disguised as having some kind of meaning. Waste of an opportunity to use a landscape to powerful effect.
Apr 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: antarctica-exile
She has been to the ice more times than I have and some things she gets dead-on right, but trying to combine the experiences of the Pole, McMurdo, and the Dry Valleys is too much. The experiences are too distinct to try and cram into one book, and does a disservice to the great detail she could give to each.
Genanne Walsh
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bledsoe creates three-dimensional, compelling, flawed, wounded, funny characters and plunks them into an unforgettable, vivid setting. Rosie: the amazing, sexy glue. Mikala: smart and believably creative. Alice: neurotic and fascinating. Even the minor characters are alive on the page. A lovely read. It will make you want to plan a trip to Antarctica.
First Second Books
This book was somewhat about writing a symphony while living in Antarctica, but also a really lovely story about friendship and thinking about where your life is doing when you’re in the middle of it. And because it was set on Antarctica, there were also a lot of seals and geology and telescopes and even a plane crash!
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
A good light read. The plot is almost soap opera-esque, and the characters are not quite fully developed, which is why it feels like a light book. But I cared about the characters, and the details of Antarctica were very interesting.
Feb 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Inspired by the authors own trips to Antarctica (yes,you read that correctly) this is set at the modern camps and bases there. All sorts of types of work are being done here to figure out global warming, to the history of the planet. 3 lives are changed by this mostly unchanged continent.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
My star rating is pretty much my feeling about all of this book - it was ok. But then maybe it is hard to really get across the physical impact of a place on a person (or, in the case, on many people). Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't... and I didn't.
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Good characters, good sense of place (Antarctica).
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The New York Times says Lucy Jane Bledsoe's novel, A THIN BRIGHT LINE, "triumphs." Ms. Magazine calls her novel, THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE, "fabulous feminist fiction." Her collection of stories, LAVA FALLS, is just out. She loves to eat, hike, hang out with friends, and dreams a lot about sea mammals. She's been to Antarctica three times, and all that is in her novel, THE BIG BANG SYMPHONY. She also ...more