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The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule Paperback – 23 Feb 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (23 Feb. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014101198X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011981
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 498,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

a]a wonderful mixture of the exact and the fanciful ("The New York Review of Books")

From the Inside Flap

Under the snow, the ice land is an anonymous world, the trees
stripped of colour. The sun trembles above the horizon, casting shadows on
the snow, waiting to sink into darkness again. When darkness comes, the ice
shines under a bright moon. The frost breath of the wind makes me blink;
the frigid air rips at my lungs. The fjord is frozen; the trees are silver
splinters. It is almost dark, though the day is hardly half way through.

I was travelling through northern lands, compelled by the endless
indeterminacy of a myth: the land of Thule - the most northerly place in
the ancient world.
Before the regions north of Britain were mapped, there was a dream of a
silent place, a land near a frozen ocean. Thule was seen once and never
found again. It became a mystery, an Arctic Atlantis.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Still reading this book, only part way through, am enjoying, and is very descriptive and atmospheric.
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This is an excellent book which starts from a specific premise - the search for the elusive land of Thule, first described by Pytheas and the mythical most northerly land in the world - and ends up exploring general (inter-related) themes of the revolution of air travel, man's increased knowledge of the world and global warming.

Kavenna writes engagingly and combines her scholarly treatment of the development of the myth of Thule with a novelist's sense of place and plot. Aspects of the book reminded me of Peter Hoeg's "Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow", not so much for the snow and ice or even the location of Greenland's Thule Air Base but for the sense of atmosphere when Kavenna meets an eccentric scientist in Hampstead which is very reminiscent of Miss Smilla's encounter with Andreas Fine Licht.

If I have one criticism it is that, at times, it seems as if Kavenna has stretched a concept beyond its natural limits in order to write a full-length book. At least two of the countries visited could not have been Thule because Pytheas could not have reached them in four days from Britain. The chapter on Estonia, however well written, is, as Kavenna is only too aware, a dead-end and other chapters focusing on the Nazi fetish for an Aryan northern identity have little if anything to do with the location of the land itself. However, these chapters are best justified, I think, as an explanation of the pollution of myth for political purpose. The book concludes under the shadow of a threat greater than that facing the world in the 1930sh, namely how man's ambivalent relationship with the world has led to the prospect of irreversible damage. While not making light of this threat, Kavenna's description of the beautiful icy wilderness provides ample inspiration to save it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the new century gets into its stride there can be no doubt that we are seeing the emergence of a new generation of travel writers. With 'The Ice Museum' Kavenna has joined WilliamFiennes, Louisa Waugh and the other of the new wave writers.
Like so much travel writing, 'The Ice Museum' is more of a journey about an idea than just a place - very much in the tradition of Chatwin or Thubron.
Kavenna is fascinated by the mythical nation of Thule, first described by the Greek Explorer Pytheas. Thule was a northern land, where the sun never sat and where sailing one day to the north took you to where the sea was frozen. The author is tired of living in London, feels the need to escape and decides to follow her fascination of the north and the legend of Thule.
Kavenna journeys to the many places that have been identified as Thule, the North of Scotland and the Shetlands, Nansen the explorer's Norway, perhaps more predictably Iceland and Greenland but also to Estonia and to Berlin where the founder of the early 20th century Thule society claimed to have been the first Nazi, Thule representing the purity of the Aryan race.
We meet some fascinating characters. We follow the lives of some of the great Arctic explorers, meet staff who remember the Nazis in Berlin, the first President of independent Estonia who used Thule as a metaphor for a Soviet Free Estonia. We meet those who inhabit some of the most northern settlements and learn about their constant struggle to survive. And we visit the US airbase on Thule in Greenland and also some of the Inuits who were moved into further, inhospitable lands, to make way for the airmen.
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Format: Paperback
I share the authors love of cold white places after visiting Iceland. This is a well written travelogue interspersed with references from adventures and authors.
Engaging sharing the awe and wonder of the north
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Format: Paperback
i read this with great pleasure and fascination
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This is just a really excellent travel book, and also strays winningly into other genres - detective trail, memoir, poetic landscape writing. Much wilderness writing these days is ineffably preachy and tedious and yet Kavenna manages to write passionately about the northern lands - whcih she clearly knows well - while maintaining a wry tone of voice. this means her book is sometimes very funny, as well as lyrical and enticing. I read it because a few people had recommended it to me, though I am no great fan of 'the North' in general. I think she is perhaps too kind to Norwegians, who are in my experience a very boorish and sanctimonious people (I lived there for 10 yeras, and feel I might make that sort of assertion with a reasonable amount of certainty..) However, she depicts a wide variety of encounters with local people, some of them hilariously odd and some just very sympatheitc and stranded up in the remote North. There is talk of declining wildernress and the dangers of global warming, but it is more through her vivid descriptions and the depth of her knowledge of the region that Kavenna makes a strong case for the need to preserve these regions, to save them from ourselves. the depth of mythical importance they have had should not just be discarded as we continue on our mad course to environmnetal destruction. A very sane and lovely book.
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