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Great story - but a bit rose-tinted
on 22 September 2006
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book - it zips along with the famous "escape from the ice back to safety" epic. Shackleton was clearly the perfect man for such a desperate trek to safety. We can only stand in awe of his achievements, so much so that we almost forget that he never actually reached the south pole in his life-time.
There are many helpful insights into Shackleton's leadership style, which any young "leader" (in business or in any team structure) would find helpful - BUT - and it is a big but - We are fools to imagine that all of life is like Shackleton's adventure down south!!! This is where the book is a bit simplistic and seems to offer us too much. We must remember that Shackleton was famous as the man who escaped from death in an incredible situation. The other sad aspect of the book is the cartoon cut-out caricature it makes of Robert Scott. I imagine this book draws heavily on the Scott as tyrant, failure myth created almost single-handedly by Roland Huntford (1979 book). Sadly, this pathetic image of Scott has been circulated around the world by Huntford's vitriolic and pathological hatred of Scott, put down in print in his book. So in The Shackleton way, Scott is terrible at just about everything and Shackleton is brilliant! This gets more than a bit galling after a time. So sometimes one feels the book is a bit simplistic.
Having given that caveat, I imagine that almost anyone interested in either team-work, leadership or antarctic exploration will not enjoy this book - just keep thinking as you read and don't fall for the "Shackleton is the greatest ever" spin!
PS - If you want an excellent biography of Scott - Ranulph Fiennes, "Captain Scott," is 1st rate.