Most Glorified Strip of Bunting
by John McGill
Two Ravens Press, Scotland
The US North Polar Expedition of 1871–73, commanded
by Charles Francis Hall with a multinational crew on board the Polaris,
was a disaster-strewn adventure that counts amongst the most bizarre
and exciting in the annals of Arctic exploration.
In this fictionalised account, McGill’s colourful
prose will hold you in thrall. As well as the ship becoming icebound,
the crew cast adrift on an ice flow, several narrow escapes and a leader
intent on planting the Stars & Stripes at the North Pole come what
may, there are also continual cultural clashes between the apparently
civilised Caucasians and the two Inuit families accompanying them. Like
the bold brushstrokes of an oil painting, we follow the events leading
up to the suspicious death of their commander.
With wild imagination the author draws us into the
moment as he sees it, crafting the characters by putting words into
their mouths and feeling into their souls. There is feuding talk, bullying,
banter. Inuit lore is explored, enabling the reader to have a view from
the other side – and to be grateful not to experience the privations
of living in an igloo! This marvellously wrought novel is surely based
on painstaking research.
The curious sequence of chapters, alternating between
‘Questing’ and ‘Drifting’, with Board of Enquiry
testimonies interceding, rather interrupted the flow for me, though
that doesn’t mean other readers won’t like it. In fact,
this is a rambunctious tale that will not disappoint.
Place Beyond: Finding Home in Arctic Alaska
Alaska Northwest Books
This is a gem of a book: one man’s passion and
profound respect for life in remote Alaska told in just 28 short essays.
So immersed is he in his northern home that Jans has
to go Outside for a few weeks every year “just to remind myself
that there’s a world beyond. If I stayed up here too long without
a break, I might forget where I came from.” I can well understand
Originally hailing from Maine, Florida, the first of
these essays, 'Grandpa’s Ghost', tells how Jans came to Alaska
in the first place, and his family’s reactions. Not much further
into the book and you can understand exactly why he succumbed to the
lure of the great North: empathetic descriptions of the life and the
people draw the reader comfortably into his world.
The unspoken bond of community living is sensitively
portrayed in 'One of Us'; there’s a marvellous description of
the winter cold and endless dark in 'The Light Within'; 'Mister Rue'
pays homage to the long lost bush pilot era. And my favourite? 'Wolves
Are Listening'. I won’t say why, you’ll just have to find
out for yourself.
by Michelle Galindo
Verlagshaus Braun, Germany
The title conjures up an image of the famous ice hotels
constructed in Scandinavia each winter to attract wealthy tourists,
or at the very least the traditional igloos of the High Arctic. Construction
in the coldest regions of the world poses enormous challenges, and this
book is a paean to the modern architects and builders who have succeeded.
Projects detailed here are fantastical and functional,
sympathetic to their environment and aesthetically pleasing. Structures
are diverse: the Indian Research Base in Antarctica, the School of Nursing
in Greenland, the Aurland Lookout in Norway, and the extraordinary Dragspelthuset
in Sweden. Countries include Antarctica, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Germany,
Greenland, Iceland, Norway (predominantly, I’m pleased to see!),
Patagonia, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.
No expense has been spared in the manufacturing of
the book, and the final result is worth every penny. Heavy paper stock
bound into hardcovers in a landscape format puts a lot of strain on
the spine, so the construction needs to be solid. The sewn pages allow
the book to open flat without any creaking or curving of the pages.
The page design with its subtle use of white space leaves the images
to speak for themselves. Only one paragraph of description per project
is presented in English, Spanish, German and French. Photographs are
of the technical kind (rather than artistic as in Blueprint
magazine) yet stunning and eloquent. A limited number of architectural
drawings are included.
This book will appeal to architects, designers, art
lovers, anyone with a general interest in architecture and everyone
with a passion for cold climates. It would grace an intellectual’s
coffee table. And it is a work of art in itself. Perfect!
Road's End: Living Free in Alaska
by Janice Schofield Eaton
Alaska Northwest Books
Have you ever wanted to follow a dream? Jan and Ed
did. They sold all they had to move to Alaska. More or less following
their nose rather than a definitive plan, they found the perfect spot
and made it their home. Ed’s experience as a builder was invaluable,
and Jan was the sort that could turn her hand to most things. They integrated
well into the local community and were smitten with the spirit of the
Having to live off the land as their savings dwindled,
Jan became interested in the medicinal properties of Alaska’s
wild plants and their culinary uses. In the absence of a comprehensive
book on the subject, she determined to write one herself and this took
her on another journey, culminating in the publication of Discovering
Wild Plants and Alaska’s Wild Plants.
Jan is a gifted writer and her text flows beautifully,
without repetition. Her motivation for writing the book is not revealed
until very near the end: the disaster wrought upon this precious land
by the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the eventual creation of the Kachemak
Heritage Land Trust which works to protect and conserve the Kenai Peninsula.
Part love story, part adventure, part natural history,
this is a touching and fascinating memoir on life in Alaska and a truly
All reviews by S.G. Servian