Barczewski has provided a compelling and thoughful dissection of these two well known polar expedition leaders, and examines their public reputations - both then and now. She has an easy style and her work, well-researched and referenced, prompts the reader to reconsider both his own and society's values and prejudices. Highly recommended.
This is the most well balanced, even-handed and in depth analysis of Scott v Shackleton that I've read so far. It's very well researched, covering ground were the so-called Antarctic historians have dismally failed to tread. It's very well written and the reader is almost certainly guaranteed to`re-think' or`re-assess' their own prejudices in relation to Scott and Shackleton.
You don't have to be a Scott or Shackleton devotee to enjoy this book, I loaned it to a friend of mine whilst he was in hospital for a few days and he claims he could not put it down - though he'd never heard of Shackleton prior to reading the book. Recommended.
Beware : this is not another history of polar exploration. It is an academic thesis similar to "The Men who Lost America." It examines the changing views of heroism over the 20th Century, by comparing the competing and fluctuating reputations of the two most prominent Antarctic explorers, Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.
Only about one third of the book (chapters 1-5, pp 1-113) covers the four key expeditions. It does so succinctly yet with sufficient detail and discussion to enable the reader to appreciate the challenges, restraints and cultural restrictions under which the explorers had to work, and to convey the usual excitement and drama. This part of the book is excellent.
Chapters 6-13 and the Epilogue (pp 115-311) then describe the effect of the Great War in shaping society's views of heroism, and compares how Scott and Shackleton have been commemorated in monuments, books, films, etc. This part of the book is much less exciting, far less succinct - and by comparison, often tedious. The narrative sometimes jumps confusingly forward and back in time, or from Scott to Shackleton and back. These chapters contain further interesting details about the expeditions, and prior as well as subsequent history of key characters, which are some compensation for the tedious passages.
The tedium consists firstly in 'cataloguing' not only books about Scott or Shackleton but just about every literary reference to them, many of which have no bearing on the book's thesis; secondly in wandering from the key theme into mundane generalising. The thesis of the title could have been conveyed at least as well using far fewer, more focussed examples.
It is a little disappointing that there are no maps and few photographic plates, but since the expeditions themselves are not the main subject of the book I suppose this is reasonable.
I've read about all there is to read about Antarctic's exploration history. Don't buy this book if it's the first book you'll read about Antarctic explorations. This book is about the treatment Scott and Shackelton got from the medias ever since their glory days. There are some factual errors those familiar with Polar exploration will notice.
The author analyses the Heroe/Demi-God treatment Scott got from his failure at the Pole until the Roland Huntford attack in "Scott and Amundsen", and goes on to explain the indifferent reaction Sir Ernest got from his return from South Georgia Island to his glorification days of the 1990's.
Some aspects are shocking to learn, such as people mocking Titus Oates in comedy. However the author takes too much pages about things that are of no interest, such as how a particular play was written and so on.
The book is interesting, but only to a certain extend. Be warn.