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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon

 

 

 

Rankin Inlet

by Mara Feeney
Gaby Press
ISBN: 978-0-981931-9-5-1
US $17.95 Paperback

It was 1970 when Alison, a young Liverpudlian nurse, sought a new life. She couldn’t have choose a more radical alternative: Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories, an Eskimo village with a few hundred inhabitants located on the west coast of the Hudson Bay. She is to work as a nurse-midwife for the remote community.

An Inuit elder sits by the hospital bed of hic critically ill daughter. He sings the old-time songs to her, and reminisces about his hunter-gatherer days.

A young Inuit man writes letters to his adopted younger brother who is at boarding school, trying to keep him up to date with what is happening in their settlement.

Through a series of correspondence and diary entries, we see how the lives of these characters become inextricably intertwined as they each confront issues of love and loss, identity and belonging. We also see how the political forces reshape the map of Canada, leading to the creation of the new territory of Nunavut in 1999, on the eve of a new millennium.

The author, Mara Feeney, spent her summers in Canada’s Norwest Territories during the early 1970 whilst studying for a degree in Anthropology, and worked for several years as Housing Officer in the small communities around the Hudson Bay. Her deep love of the Inuit and Rankin Inlet inspired her to write this novel in the hope of imparting to the rest of the world the difficulties of living in a fast-changing world, the need to keep a precious culture alive, and the value of family love and community spirit. The result is a unique book that treats these areas with sensitivity and vitality, keeping the reader’s attention from beginning to end. Every measure has been taken to ensure accuracy in political matters, cultural descriptions and the use of Inuktitut terms. A gem amongst northern novels.

Review by S. G. Servian

 

White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia

by Jacek Hugo-Bader
Portobello Books
ISBN: 9781846272691 (hardback) £16.99
ISBN: 9781846272707 (paperback) £9.99


As the jacket blurb says, no one in their right mind travels from Moscow to Vladivostok in the middle of winter in a modified Russian jeep (a character in its own right), but then Hugo-Bader is no ordinary traveller. This is also without doubt the quirkiest book I have ever read. At first I was quite excited about the prospect of the journey - the author is a Polish journalist so the writing promised to be good, and he does not disappoint. This master of description brings us right into the moment, with the help of his accomplished translator.

However, I soon realised that the ride would be rough. Siberia is slowly dying - or, more accurately, killing itself: this is a traumatized post-Communist landscape peopled by the homeless and the hopeless. Hugo-Bader has the ability to break into the tight-knit communities and gain the trust of individuals, presenting here their bleak, tragic existence, laced occasionally with black humour.

The chapters do not follow the same format, adding another dimension of surprise to the reader. Chapter 2, for example, is a curious dictionary of Russian-English hippy slang. The most valuable component of any journey is the people one meets along the way, and Hugo-Bader certainly links up with an interesting bunch of characters. He devotes a lot of time to understanding their circumstances rather than just making face-value judgements, and the book is all the richer for it. However, the book’s important message makes for an uncomfortable read and I don’t really want to believe that Russia really is like that – can anyone offer me an antidote?

Review by S. G. Servian


Recommended Reading from 2011

Recommended Reading from 2010

Recommended Reading from 2009

Recommended Reading from 2008

Recommended Reading from 2007

 

For all previous reviews, see below:

British Polar Exploration and Research: A Historical and medallic record with biographies 1818–1999
Lt.Col. N.W. Poulsom and Rear Admiral J.A.L. Myres, CB

The Shore Whaling Stations at South Georgia
Bjørn L. Basberg

The Antarctic Journals of Reginald Skelton: Another little job for the Tinker
Judy Skelton

The Explorer's Daughter: A Young Englishwoman Rediscovers Her Arctic Childhood
Kari Herbert

Seek the Frozen Lands: Irish Polar Explorers 1740-1922
Frank Nugent

Islands of the Arctic
Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey

Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia
William Mills

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land
Subhankar Banerjee

Frost on my Moustache
by Tim Moore

Polar Reaches: The History of Arctic and Antarctic Exploration
by Richard Sale

Expédition Narval: Une aventure dans l'Arctique
by Yves Ouellet

Antarctica: An encyclopedia from Abbott Ice Shelf to Zooplankton
Edited by Mary Trewby

Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory
by Lucien M. Turner; Introduction by Stephen Loring

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition
by Susan Solomon

 

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