on 20 January 2007
I enjoyed Melanie McGrath's last book, Silvertown, a moving fictionalised biography of her East End grandmother. Early 20th century Silvertown was no picnic but this new work is set in an even tougher and more challenging environment, that of the Canadian Arctic. It is the story of one Inuit,Josephie Flaherty, the illegitimate son of the filmmaker who made "Nanook of the North." But it is also a story of the betrayal of the Inuit community by the Canadian government. A group of Inuits were tricked and abandoned in a "cultural" experiment that beggars belief in its stupidity and cruelty, particularly as it occurred so recently. McGrath's research is thorough but more importantly her writing is gripping, yet culturally respectful and highly empathetic. Strongly recommended.
on 3 February 2008
The book begins with an account of Robert Flaherty's making of the first documentary film ("Nanook of the North", 1920, available on DVD). After a slightly slow start, McGrath goes on to portray the lives of the Innuit peoples of the Arctic long after Flaherty left. The historic details are meticulously researched. This powerful insight is so well written that you can physically feel the constant fight for survival against the harshest odds. Most people would find these odds insurmountable, but we learn how the Innuit as a people did survive. Not for the feint-hearted or casual reader, the book reveals how Innuit people endured injustices and hardships which were never acknowledged by the outside world until the 1990's.