Book Reviews: Endurance and The Arctic Fury
By Alexis Mercer
The book reviews had to be pushed to the wayside for a while. Teaching in a pandemic has a way of shifting one's priorities. Not that I haven’t been reading, however, it was a few pages each night before my eyelids couldn’t stay open any longer. And there simply wasn’t time to write reviews.
But we made it to Christmas break. Perhaps by the skin of our teeth, but here we are. So between helping with Lego sets, enjoying hot cocoa after sledding (don’t go to the Sports Park yet...the base is not there and you will pay dearly for a fast ride down an incredibly bumpy hill with not enough snow if you're anything like me), popcorn while watching Christmas movies (how many times can you see each of the Home Alone movies? My kids are setting records I think…) and all the other fun we have managed to come up with while home for the break, I have been devouring pages of books.
Two of those books are Endurance and The Arctic Fury. One led to the next thanks to an email “if you liked Endurance, you may like these as well…” and of course the email was correct in its assumption.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing was recommended by a professional runner I follow on social media. His Instagram post showed that he was reading the book and loving the story of endurance that was not simply finishing a marathon or ultra race, but one that meant life or death, and the lessons he was learning from that.
The book is the true story of a group of men who set off on an expedition to Antarctica in an attempt to cross the continent on foot in August of 1914. Instead of making it to the uncharted land, their ship got stuck in a block of ice painfully close in miles and yet unthinkably far away from the final destination.
What unfolds in the pages is the tale of Ernest Shackleton’s brave leading of men through unfathomable conditions in an attempt to survive thousands of miles in the antarctic; many on the ship and many on land once their ship was crushed by ice blocks.
The author, Lansing, was given permission to see the diaries of all the men on the ship for this fateful adventure. In addition, he interviewed each of the surviving members of the expedition at length.
What results is the harrowing true story of men who survived some of Earth’s most unbelievable conditions that left me thinking about what true endurance means.
With a book in between completely unrelated to any sort of cold weather adventures, I was ready to dive into another exploration book: The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister.
Virginia Reeve is called upon by Lady Jane Franklin to lead a group of a dozen women into the Arctic to find her husband and his lost expedition. Though many other men have tried, none have been successful, and Lady Franklin thinks that a women’s expedition will have a different result.
If Reeve and her crew are successful, they will be rewarded greatly. If they fail? No one will ever know of their trip.
In a daunting tale that flips back and forth between the expedition itself and a trial for murder in a Boston courtroom, the suspense builds and propels the reader forward through to the very end.
Though The Arctic Fury was inspired by a true story of a lost men’s expedition in the Arctic and the wealthy wife, Lady Franklin, who funded trips to find what became of the men in the late 1840s and early 1850s, the all-women’s expedition part is purely fiction. This is a beautiful blend of historic reality and brilliant fiction to create an entertaining, thoughtful story.
One true tale to the Southernmost part of the Earth. One historical fiction tale to the Northernmost. Both captivating stories that left me thinking about bravery, adventure, survival and endurance in new ways.
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