This is a novel of the ill-fated Franklin expedition in the 1940's which tried to find a North West Passage through the Arctic ice across the top of Canada. The story opens with both ships kitted out and fully crewed and ready to go, and I expected to be plunged straight into the expedition. Howerever the first 60 or so pages are dismally dull, being taken up with visits to various territories and minor officials, none of which has any bearing on the story whatsoever. During this interlude, although we are introduced to some of the major characters, other than their names and positions there is hardly any detail about them. Apart from a brief moment when the characters are brought to life at the start of Part 2, this total lack of empathy with the characters continues throughout the book and is its major failing. I was told so little about the men, their backgrounds and what really drove them that I found it virtually impossible to care about them. I expected some idea of what the men thought, the feel of the terrible cold, the conditions on board the ships, etc, but there is so very little. Instead there are almost daily reports in an abundance of detail on what the ice was doing. It almost seems as if someone has transcribed a ship's log book and added a few conversations and a bit of dressing.
With such a dramatic setting, the personalities involved, the endurance of the men and the constant fight against nature and the terribly sad outcome, there was ample scope for a powerful, engrossing tale which tugged at the heart strings, but the book failed to deliver any of those. In comparison to Robert Ryan's "Death on the Ice", this book is a non-starter.
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