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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 16 August 2014
Everland is a book about Antarctic exploration. It takes the story of two expeditions to the fictional titular island, each comprising three people. The first expedition takes place in 1913, the second is set in 2012, to celebrate the centenary of the first disastrous landing. Author Rebecca Hunt appears to draw on her experiences with the Arctic Circle residency to present a highly convincing picture of both a frozen landscape and of its effect on the vulnerable human body. This makes Everland a somewhat pungent book. I had recently read Hannah Kent's Burial Rites which, with an Icelandic setting, gives a similar feel of the odour generated by people huddled together in a freezing environment.

Secondly it is a book about the passage of time. There are frequent references to the lichen on the island, which lives for thousands of years, barely changing over the 100 year timescale of the book. At the other end of the spectrum is technology. The 20th century explorers are isolated for months at a time with rudimentary, barely adequate equipment. Their 21st century successors on the other hand have constant contact via radio, and the extent of their isolation is limited to being two hours away by sea plane. What doesn't change is their vulnerability in the face of the sheer unforgiving hostility of the environment. Hunt's main theme, however, is the constancy of human nature. She seemingly creates a basket of character traits which she shares between the earlier Dinners, Millet-Bass and Napps, and then redistributes them between the later Blix, Jess and Decker. Each party has a weak link who joined the party as a result of outside influence. Each has a no-nonense expert. Each has a leader struggling with the responsibility. Everland thus becomes a sort of dark and twisted Never-neverland in which human nature never grows up.

Thirdly it is a book about relationships under pressure. As the story of the two expeditions move along similar arcs, with clear parallels between the difficulties each faces, so the development of the relationships between the three main characters follow corresponding paths at either end of the century. In both there is an initial hostile divide between naivety and competence, with a seemingly more mature character keeping the peace. As time passes hostility turns to acceptance and diplomacy deteriorates into vindictiveness. A critical exploration of the effects of stress comes near the end of the 21st century thread when one of the characters takes an uncharacteristically selfish decision. Is this a piece of poor, unrealistic writing or is it a totally credible account of something having to give in a man squeezed by competing demands in an unbearably stressful situation?

Fourthly it is a book about how history is written by the victors. Early on the 2012 expedition watch a film based on the story of their predecessors, during which the supposed villain of the piece is roundly booed. Through the book we learn of the very different reality of the situation, and of why, to protect vested interests, the name of a noble if uncompromising man was blackened. This is repeated in both eras as characters reach sordid little compromises to obscure the truth of their own misdeeds.

The strengths of Everland are the apparent authenticity of the environment (I don't have the personal experience to judge this definitively) and in the complex characterisations of and relationships between the historical protagonists. The more modern characters are less successful. While they show some development, they start off as very crudely drawn stereotypes. I wasn't always convinced by the number of parallels between the two stories. The author at times seemed to be trying too hard, for example there is an incident involving the burying of meat in both timelines which seems almost peripheral to the plot, and only in there to create a temporal echo. It is also only vaguely explained (although one can guess at what happened).

Overall, Everland is a well researched, engrossing book with a narrative which both moves at a reasonable pace and keeps some of its secrets right up to the final denouement.

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on 27 February 2015
Everything about this book is outstanding: the lyrical descriptions of the polar environment and shipboard life, the psychological intricacies of the characters, and the historical research. The story is brilliantly planned and the two parallel plots sweep you along. But it is the subtlety of the all-seeing authorial standpoint that marks this book out, because for me, one of the key themes was the disconnect between what we think and feel, and the interpretation that others in our own time, and especially posterity, will place on what we leave behind, both physical and written. Our 'paper' self can be our undoing. All through, I was constantly re-evaluating the characters in light of new information that the author drip-fed me. I absolutely loved it.
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on 4 December 2015
Confusing and unclear what it was really about. Very little character development so a difficult story to get any involvement with. The constantly changing time line (even within each part of the story) was also confusing and annoying
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on 26 May 2014
Rebecca Hunt does a wonderful job of conjuring up the bleak, inhospitable landscapes of Antarctica and it was no surprise to find that she has been there herself. The book cleverly juggles two parallel storylines set one hundred years apart, without ever seeming clunky or contrived and the set up and and well drawn characters ensure that you keep reading until the bitter (literally) end. It isn't a cheerful book and I wouldn't recommend it for beach reading, but for a winter evening with the curtains drawn and a fire burning in the grate, it is very good indeed.
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on 23 February 2015
The complexity of the blurb did not live up to the ending. Enjoyed it but read Jamrachs menagerie as an exploration of real moral choices in a similar situation
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on 5 November 2015
great standard
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 February 2016
I normally enjoy books set in the Arctic or Antarctic, whether historical or contemporary. And as this latest novel from Rebecca Hunt combines the two, I was looking forward to it. Admittedly the story itself is potentially engaging, following as it does two expeditions, the first in 1913 and the second 100 years later. But unfortunately the author just isn’t up to the job. Characterisation is poor with little character development and too much reliance on lazy stereotyping. Dialogue is clunky, especially in the historical sections where no attempt seems to have been made towards authenticity. Descriptions are reasonable but the continually changing timelines make for disjointed reading. And the names are most odd. Dinners? Millet-Bass? All in all I found the book most unsatisfying and quickly lost interest.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 September 2015
I don't know why a person who feels the cold and loves the heat is so drawn to literature set in the frozen wastes, nor why I should spend so much time terrifying myself with fantasies of being abandoned and isolated in a polar landscape, but I do, and I am a reader driven to read fact and fiction about isolation and chill

So, Rebecca Hunt's Everland, and its subject matter, two separate, 3 person scientific explorations of a penguin and seal colony in Antarctica, one in 1913 and one in 2012 was an obvious read for me.

And very absorbing and satisfying it proved too, even if it didn't completely satisfy, as some of the obvious parallels and obvious differences between the two expeditions felt a little like an excellent idea which was getting overworked.

In both centuries (the two time-frames are interwoven with each other) there is a mother ship, from which 3 individuals are chosen to be the expedition which goes to `Everland', an island in Antarctica (invented) . In each case, there are `political' dynamics over the choice of one of the team. And in each case, the leader of the team is highly experienced, their second in command is hard working and practical and the third, the scientist, has rather been foisted on the other two against their wishes, in order to satisfy and secure funding, because of their connection to powerful people. In both cases, there is one team member who is implacably opposed to the `freeloader' scientist who is a liability, though they are well-meaning, in such a harsh environment, and the other team-member who is more kindly. In each case, as everything unravels it is the one who is most implacably opposed who shows a transcending nobility.

The make-up of both teams show the changing times. 1913, Napps, Millet-Bass and Dinners are all men, by 2012 the make-up of the team is 1 male and 2 females

Hunt is brilliant at bringing home the chilly, hostile, savage and beautiful environment. The book is full of moral ambiguities, and, particularly in the 1913 section, the complexities of relationship and status, and the conflicts between public and private faces are excellently done.

In the end, the later exploration, one undertaken as a kind of `anniversary' of the earlier one, was rather less satisfying. Once Hunt had set up the conceit, making a kind of mirror reflection with a twist, as the plot developed, the reader knew roughly how things were going to play out, and the reading experience of the 2012 became a little like a compare and contrast jigsaw. I did not experience involvement with the modern section. It seemed a little forced into a shape.

Recommended, with some reservations

I received the book as a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley
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on 24 June 2015
I doubt I would have picked this book for myself to read but having had the opportunity to read it courtesy of Penguin and Genes Reunited I'm glad I have read it.
It's very well written and researched. I am wondering whether the writer spent much time in the Antarctic as the atmosphere created was palpable.
I enjoyed the dual timescales and the similarities and differences between them. I enjoyed the fact that Everland remained immutable throughout the passing of the decades.
The parallels between the two groups of explorers was fascinating and in a weirdly Lord of the Flies manner we see how disparate groups of people react and interact making life changing and affirming decisions. I often asked myself what I would have done in some of those situations.
And in a sense the Antarctic scene was a backdrop for the drama of human personalities and frailties to be played out. Given any extreme set of circumstances in a hostile environment would the decisions made be any different, relative to the situations the characters find themselves in. The concept of responsibility is an interesting one here too; it can be bestowed according to rank or position or it can be assumed according to personality and disposition. And there are some contemporary issues, even if they are dealt with in the 1913 time frame, euthanasia and the manipulation and corruption of facts to achieve a desired end.
So all in all a very substantial read on several levels. Whether I enjoyed or endured is debatable. I felt very cold and exhausted by the time I reached the end!!!
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on 19 June 2017
This book takes two Arctic expeditions, in 1913 and 2012, and examines the psychology of those who undertook them. From the derring-do of the early adventurers to the quest for scientific knowledge of the present day, it looks in detail at two groups of three landed on a very remote island. The depiction of the privations of life in the Antarctic climate are portrayed in fine detail and leave one failing to understand why anyone would put themselves through such torture. In both cases the impact on the minds of the explorers is graphically depicted. In the case of the earlier expedition we also follow the main party from whom the trio become separated.
On the whole the writing is well paced and lucid. I both enjoyed and learned from this book.
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