on 26 October 2012
This is a story of two halves. The one story of Robert Falcon Scott'e epic journey to the South Pole in 1911/12. And the lesser known story of the Australian Douglas Mawson's expedition to the Antarctic in 1912/13. Despite (or perhaps because of) his 'heroic' death, Scott was later immortalised. Though Mawson survived, and was indeed knighted, yet his name is relatively little known a century later. The two men knew one another, only in passing, yet there were many similarities in the immense hardships they faced and the difficulties and challenges of mounting expeditions a century ago.
To be fair to Adrian Caesar, his tales of the two men are not strictly biographical but rather "imaginative recreations" (as he himself describes them). The diaries of both Scott and Mawson are selectively quoted, but there are few other references to sources. Instead Caesar uses his knowledge derived from the writings of others, to imagine the motivations, moods, musings and innermost thoughts of the two men.
I have to say that I learnt very little that was new to me about the two major journeys described in the book - that of Scott and his team to the Pole, and Mawson and his in Adelie Land. For me, the style of 'imaginative recreation' worked in part, much more so for Mawson than for Scott. I became a little irritated with Caesar's apparent acceptance of the modernist view that Scott was a bumbler and self-seeker - his 'imaginings' certainly reflected such an outlook. (On the cover blurb, Ranulph Fiennes describes the book as a 'magnificent re-telling' - a curious plaudit given Fiennes own antipathy to negative interpretations of Scott's achievements.)
But what I really did enjoy about the book was the courage that Caesar displays in formulating this really novel approach to retelling such inspiring tales of the past. His skilful use of language paints pictures in the mind which really do help the reader to feel for the protagonists and to personally participate in the story being told.
on 4 August 2015
I was really looking forward to this book, but I'm afraid it was too disjointed for me and I didn't like Caesar's style of writing. The bias in the book towards Mawson over Scott is odd to read, the writer clearly believes Scott was to blame for the deaths of his team whereas the misfortune that fell on Mawson was just that, misfortune. I also disliked the continual references to sexuality in the novel, but clearly this is an area of study for Caesar (see his other works) and if I'd done a bit more research before reading then I probably wouldn't have bothered buying the book. I did however enjoy learning about Mawson, so there's the three stars.
on 17 August 2012
As well as being a valuable insight into the characters of Scott and Mawson - their weaknesses as well as their strengths, this book is a must for anyone who enjoys a story about man's struggle with the natural world at its most brutal and magnificent. This is a thoroughly researched book: the author skillfully blends factual information, drawing on diary entries etc with his own powerful and evocative descriptions of what both Scott, Mawson and their teams had to contend with. It is fast paced and engaging. A great read!