Well worth a read,
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This review is from: Death on the Ice (Paperback)
I have to admit that I approached this book with more than a little trepidation. 'Death on the Ice' is a novel - a novel based on Ryan's extensive research of the numerous primary and secondary sources which are freely available and which relate to Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic expeditions in the early 20th century. My trepidation was based on the fact that I worry that such a genre has the potential to distort and misrepresent the life of a person who actually lived relatively recently and who is no longer able to defend himself. But I can now say that any such fears that I might have had, were totally unfounded.
Having read many of the sources myself, I can only say that I felt that Ryan did his utmost to be fair, and to faithfully represent a balanced version of what is likely to have actually happened. More than that, his descriptive skills and his ability to get inside the characters of the principal persona of the story, were a powerful means of enhancing my own understanding of what those with Scott actually experienced a century ago.
I also very much appreciated the way the author structured the story. For those who know the saga, and certainly the inevitable outcome, the novel could have been a somewhat tedious repeat of events in serial order. Instead Ryan uses relatively short chapters (each, an average of 6 pages), to provide 'glimpses' of the action in various places and times - London - the Barrier - Cape Evans - Berlin etc. and this effectively gives the story pace and drive. In addition, he focuses on particular characters. I especially enjoyed his portrayals of Titus Oates, Kathleen Scott and Tryggve Gran and felt that I got to know them more than ever before.
I have one small niggle towards the end. Nobody will ever know the mind of Titus Oates when he left the tent for his own oblivion. But Ryan spent a page and a half guessing and relating as fact those last innermost thoughts. Clearly he was trying to bring the novel to a fitting climax. But for me, this moment would have achieved greater poignancy if those thoughts had been left unsaid. But let such a niggle not detract from what I felt was a fine novel and I am so pleased I chose to read it.