A decade ago, novelist and short story writer Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world's most enigmatic continent - Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody's country. Ice Diaries is the story of McNeil's years spent in ice, not only in the Antarctic, but her subsequent travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard, culminating in a strange event in Cape Town, South Africa, where she journeyed to make what was to be her final trip to the southernmost continent.
In the spirit of the diaries of Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, McNeil mixes travelogue, popular science, and memoir to examine the history of our fascination with ice. In entering this world, McNeil unexpectedly finds herself confronting her own upbringing in the Maritimes, the lifelong effects of growing up in a cold place, and how the climates of childhood frame our emotional thermodynamics for life. Ice Diaries is a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.
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Some great content but also a bit random
I really enjoyed the majority of this book which is about the authors first hand experience getting to and living at one of the British Antarctic Survey's main bases.There's some great detail that brings to life what it is like living in such a special part of the world. Great stuff. Unfortunately (for me) the author breaks this up with regular flashbacks to her earlier life which I'm sure were interesting for some but for me just got in the way of the rest of the book. Towards the end there's a chapter on climate change that, while well reasoned and relevant, cant help feeling like it was tacked on because it should be. After this point the author goes off on a bit of a tangent which while candid & personal is decidedly speculative about what might have happened to her had she made different choices. Again not a highlight for me personally. One other observation (and I'm really not trying to be picky here) is that while the author has spent a long time living in the UK the narrator obviously hasn't. Her pronunciation of some words is just plain wrong to anyone who's lived in England. Does it detract from the book? No of course not, might even add a bit of light relief although not perhaps in a way the author would have liked.