I loved it. The writing is luminous. It was a pleasure to read the prose and to explore these bizarre places that Russell creates and then conjures out of the pages. My favorite book so far this year.
I am still in the beginning of this book so I have no business reviewing it. However, I feel compelled to say that I am torn about something I see frequently in recent fiction: the way authors turns nouns into verbs. Nouning verbs, if you will. As in: she nouned her verbs to great effect. “Kiwi was free to spend most of every day mossed inside the library boat.” “Ghosts silked into our bedroom.” The effect can be amazing, but can also start to feel like a cheap trick when overused. What do other readers think? Has anyone else noticed this or seen anything written about it?
I hesitate to call this a novel. It is more like a series of excellent literary sketches. It reminds me of looking through a famous sculptor’s preliminary drawings in that you can see the talent on the paper but the impact of the sketches can not compare to the impact of a sculpture. However, from the artist’s perspective, I can see how if the sketches ($14.95 paperback) sold for the same price as the sculpture ($14.95 paperback), and if said artist is talented enough to sell sketches… Well, why not just turn in a handful of sketches instead of spending years chipping away at hard stone? From the reader’s perspective, however, this book made me think that if this talented artist were to take these wonderful sketches and chisel them into a novel, it could be a doozy.
The book is so tightly woven, never a stitch dropped. It is disconcerting that so many important things rush by in a blur. I suppose that is the point.
So sad. I read this on the plane and cried from Chicago to Seattle. Why do I keep reading books about the Holocaust? I think it is because within the larger story of how terrible we humans are, there is also the story of how good we can be. That is the thing about this book: it takes one of the saddest stories in the world and uses it to show us the little bit of hope in the bottom of the box.
This book is like a pleasurable outing to the arctic region with a lively, knowledgeable and well-read companion. Minus the mosquitoes. I certainly enjoyed Ms. Wheeler’s dry wit and ability to turn a good phrase. There is a spoonful of sugar to go with every bitter climate change science pill, too, a juicy tidbit about an early exploration or the personal hygiene of the members of a research station. I do love books that make me feel smarter without putting me right to sleep. She does skip around pretty fast, though, moving from country to country so quickly that I started to get them all mixed up (wait, was that Greenland or Svalbard?) and after about 200 pages I started to feel the trivia begin to run off my back like water off a Northern Pintail. I loved being able to follow her into the research stations but wished we could have spent more time in the villages, the seasonal camps or the resource extraction areas. All in all, though, a fantastic introduction to the history and science of the arctic for a layman reader. I would highly recommend this book to a reader who has an interest in the arctic (and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to one who hasn’t).