I love reading books about isolation in the North Atlantic - and this book boded well in that regard. Thomas Cave, a whaler in 1616, is left at his own behest at a whaling station when his ship sails away. He has sworn to attempt to live there, on his own, for a year, with the whaling ship returning next season to see if he has been successful or not. They leave him with all the provisions they think he will need. Thomas takes to keeping a diary; not so much of his feelings or thoughts, but of survival - so that at the very least, if he dies before the ship returns, they will know of the limits of his endurance and the viability of any future plans for staying on the island that we now know as Svalbard. While reading Thomas' diary, and hearing his observations, we find more of this enigmatic man; what drove him, what led him to where he is now, and why he is doing this apparently suicidal thing. The story picks up again in 1640, with one of his former shipmates narrating the ship's return to Svalbard after the winter, to pick up Thomas Cave.
This is one of those books that you read hungrily, avid to find out what happens next. But it leaves you thinking, and determined to read it again, slowly and deliberately, to savour each nuance of the characters, of the atmosphere, of the story itself. Recommended for a thoughtful, enlightening read.