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Customer Review

on 27 December 2001
Some time ago I readApsley Cherry-Garrard's 'The Worst Journey in the World'. It became one of my favourite travel books, but left me wanting to know more about the man who wrote it. The book's forward, written by Paul Theroux, mentioned that Cherry-Garrard never had a biography written about him. This was my call to action, that I, who had not written anything more demanding than a shopping list for years, would write that biography. Sadly for me but thankfully for the literary world, Sara Wheeler beat me to it. In 'Cherry', her first biography, she uncovers the life of a man who never quite fitted in, who was more of a mass of contradictions than than most people. He was landed gentry at a time when their power was waning, a Victorian in outlook whilst living in the 20th century, a shy,anxious man who bought his way into an Antarctic expedition where anxiety-provoking situations were presumably relatively common. Sara Wheeler has dug deep to get under the skin of Cherry-Garrard and it is obvious that despite his indifference and/or hatred of children, socialists and vicars, there are parts of his personality that are likeable, and that the author likes him and communicates that warmth to us. It is also plain to see her warm (?) feelings towards the Antarctic and her empathy with the conditions that Cherry and his comrades had to endure. It ws no surprise to learn that she had spent 7 months there herself. As well as laying bare the internal tensions within Cherry-Garrard, Wheeler also explores and exposes the tensions within Scott's last expedition itself, and the various alliancies and difficulties between it's members, both during the expedition and even for years afterwards, difficulties that were heavily suppressed by an establishment that needed heroes, not human beings. To summarise, this is a well researched, very readable book about a kind, dreadfully anxious but brave and fascinating man.
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