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The Solitude of Thomas Cave [Paperback]

Georgina Harding
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Mar 2010
August, 1616. The whaling ship Heartsease has ventured high into the Arctic, but now must begin the long journey home. Only one man stays behind: Thomas Cave makes a wager to remain here, alone, until the next season. No man has yet been known to survive a winter this far north. As the light recedes and the ice begins to close in, Cave pits himself against blizzards, avalanches, bears - and his own demons. For in this wilderness that is without human history his past returns to him: the woman he had loved, the grief that drove him to the ice.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (15 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747599742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747599746
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Harding's exquisite novel is a masterpiece of mood and location ... a profound meditation on survival, atonement and faith' Daily Telegraph 'Her descriptions of scenery are outstanding ... Thomas Cave's ordeal should hold readers fast in an icy grip' Independent 'Deeply affecting ... The tale of his isolation contains scenes of devastating pathos' New York Times 'Divine and mesmerising ... rouses the spirits of Defoe, Hawthorne and R. L. Stevenson' The Times

About the Author

Georgina Harding is the author of two works of non-fiction: Tranquebar: A Season in South India and In Another Europe. This is her first novel. She lives in London and Colchester, Essex.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Man Vs His Nature 24 Feb 2007
TSOTC is beautifully written novel set in the Arctic in August 1616. Thomas Cave, a quiet thoughtful seafarer, finds himself at the centre of a wager that leaves him on his own and battling the arctic wilderness for a year with little more than basic provisions. What starts as a book about Man vs Nature evolves into a book about Man vs His Nature, and I was painfully aware of the modern parallels.

The prose is measured, but not manipulative. Author Harding fluently weaves together the psychological and physical elements that claw for Thomas Cave's attention and insinuate themselves as truth, with or without proof. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Here be beauty 1 Jun 2007
There is beauty here, and not just in the exquisite cover and interesting page edges. The writing, like the scenery Harding portrays, is stark but evocative; beautiful and engaging and the concept is reminiscent of Cruesoe.

The writing is incredibly vivid in places. It is a book that touches all the senses. The cold, the isolation, the fear, the sense of timelessness all haunted me as I read. The whaling itself was so well described that it left me quite perturbed. I could almost feel the blubber under foot; I could almost feel the knife slicing through the lice-ridden skin and smell it festering in the 24 hour sun.

On the simplest level this is a book about man's capacity to survive, to adapt, to leave his footprint on the world he inhabits; it is about the ability in the most ordinary of men to do the extraordinary. I love this about it. It is inspiring.

Most of all, though, this novel is about change. It is a allegory of man's impact on the environment and the environment's impact on men. The two are linked and this book outlines that link beautifully.

If I can be fussy for a moment, I would have liked to have seen more of Cave's time back in civilisation and, but this is a small quibble. This is a great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 7 Mar 2008
Georgina Harding's debut novel, The Solitude of Thomas Cave, is the type of novel that I yearn for, yearn in the same way as the character of the novel, Thomas Cave, years for solitude. My previous two favourite novels were similiar in the subject of solitude, Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses and Gerard Donovan's Julius Winsome. I can now make this a hattrick and add TSOTC to that list. Although set in 1616 it is a story of a man coming to terms with an ineffable grief that lies within him like a resevoir, a grief in which he needs to find an echo to, which he only finds in this Arctic log cabin. But what it turns out to be is a beautiful, amazing fable about how humans treat one aother, animals, superstition, following the herd and global warming. I cannot recommend this novel enough. It will, I'm sure, prove to be a classic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beaytiful, melancholy novel. 29 Mar 2011
I was recommended this by my mum, perhaps because she remembered how much I loved Moby Dick when I was younger. It is an intricately layered novel, set during the Seventeenth Century, and centering on a sailor on a whaling ship out of Hull who takes a wager to remain in Greenland through the winter. It is a book about loss and loneliness, carefully paced and finely spun out in waves of clear, almost sparse narrative interspersed with flurries of lush descriptive writing.
The kind of book that makes you happily forgive the occasional glaring error. Ten pounds seems far too much for an ordinary seaman in the 17th Century to wager. The tone of the whole book, in fact, seems to be more like the early 19th C - until we reach the beginnings of the Civil War, in the final chapters. And what on earth made the author suggest that Snipe have curved bills (p.21)? Straight as a pikestaff, whenever I've seen one. Is she confusing them with Curlew? No matter - it is still a lovely novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a small masterpiece 9 Feb 2007
This is a staggeringly eloquent and beautifully written novel about a man who chooses to spend the winter alone in the Artic. I read this in one sitting and it literally sent shivers down my spine because the cold, sparse landscape is described so vividly. I hadn't heard of the author before but I hope she writes more. This is exquisite.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Writer 6 Oct 2012
By Pedro
Georgina Harding is more than just a good writer, I'm tempted to call her great, certainly she stands out among those writing today, not only for her prose, which is impeccable, but also for her imagination, empathy and her compassion for human frailty. 'Thomas Cave' is beautiful, tragic, inspiring and apart from her two other novels I can think of few books that I've read in the last year or so, and I try to read what is generally praised, which have left me so satisfied rather than disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey within a journey 21 Mar 2012
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Prose
The author is my step sister. I was delighted with this book, and delighted to get hold of a copy through Amazon long after it had ceased to be shelved by Waterstones et al.
Published 2 months ago by Patrick Furlong
5.0 out of 5 stars A literary gem
This is the story of one man's endurance and the way it shapes his philosophy and changes his thinking. It is beautifully written with compassion and detail. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Tiddlepod
5.0 out of 5 stars The Solitude of Thomas Cave
This book arrived in pristine form to delight me. It is a work of literary art and I would recommend it to any book lover.
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. Janette B. Jeans
5.0 out of 5 stars A insightful read
We read this book in our book group earlier in the year and on the whole most readers enjoyed the book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mrs. W. B. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars review
From page one I could not put this book down. I read it in just under four hours. Brilliant and thought provoking - amazing story yet sometimes gory as set on whaling ships in... Read more
Published 15 months ago by hi-dell
5.0 out of 5 stars A bleak tale of unbelievable hardship&I'll never eat the liver of a...
Having listened to the aidio version I had to buy a copy for my son after I'd described it to him!
Published 16 months ago by P. Masters
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric & Profound
This is a beautifully written book. The prose is so good I found myself unable at first to enjoy the story, due to constant, involuntary analysis of the text. Read more
Published 17 months ago by CaSundara
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.
Hugely atmospheric, and with an enigmatic plotline that I relished. It's my third Georgina Harding I've read on the trot, loved all three. So varied too. Hope there's more to come!
Published 17 months ago by valcorbett
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating
A very good read. It brought one to places that one normally doesn't imagine. Matching the landscape so well with all the emotional turmoil of the character.
Published 24 months ago by Pat
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
I had never heard of Georgina Harding whenI bought the book in a charity shop. For once, all the comments on the cover are true. I didn't want it to end. Read more
Published on 28 May 2012 by Linda
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