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Not my cup of tea.
on 10 November 2012
Sarah Wheeler's 'Terra Incognita' is the account of the writer's relatively recent travels in Antarctica.
I decided to read the book because I was so impressed by Ms wheeler's biography 'Cherry' - an account of the life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard. (see my review) However, I have to say I was rather disappointed with this book which was written in a quite different style - indeed, if I had not known the authors were one and the same person, I could not have guessed it.
But I note that I am in a minority. Judging by the many very positive other reviews of the book, most really enjoyed it - so in the end it must just be down to personal perceptions and taste.
Can I say from the start that I certainly admire Ms Wheeler's writing ability. There are within the book some beautiful descriptive pieces which evoke the mood and the majesty of the Antarctic continent. What niggled me though was the apparent pointlessness of the journeying. If there was a purpose, other than a rather unusual holiday, it escaped me. Additionally, the narrative flitted rapidly from one location to another, seemingly randomly. Characters were introduced at a rate of knots, and quickly disappeared. I never felt I got to know any of them very well. Interspersed with the overall narrative, were snippets of historical episodes - Scott - Shackleton etc. But for me, none of these added insights to the heroic deeds of those pioneers of old and I could not work out why each snippet was placed in the particular place in the narrative that it was. And it may be a generational issue, but I became intensely bored by the 1001 references to the trivia of daily happenings, but more especially the banal conversations of the many characters whom Ms Wheeler met on her travels - surely there was much more to the various scientists et al who featured than the lavatorial humour which appeared to permeate their every thought.
But then again, I am clearly swimming against the tide of praise from other reviewers. In my defence, can I repeat, there were parts of the book I really enjoyed -but overall - not my cup of tea.