Historical fiction about the doomed Franklin expedition to find the northwest passage, this 770-page book spends most of its length chronicaling the tribulations of the men trapped on the ice, facing hypothermia, starvation, scurvy, madness—while also being stalked and picked off by an unknown monster on the ice. The first 600+ pages can, at times, feel like it’s not going anywhere—more starvation, more men dying, hopelessness continues—but still manages to remain engaging. The writing at times feels sloppy, with contradictions only a couple of sentances apart.
In the last one hundred pages it becomes an almost entirely different novel, in a rather jarring but good way. Without spoiling it, the legends of the native Esquimaux people come to the forefront of the story.
Definitely a very male-centric story, which I guess would be expected considering the expedition that the story is about consisted of exclusively men. Although there is a strong female protagonist, she is literally unable to speak, and although she is portrayed as being very strong and self-sufficient, her role of subservience to the men around her is clear. As with any story like this, it’s hard (for me, at least) to determine how much of this is just a portrayal of the sexism of the times that the story is set in, and how much of it is perpetuation of the stereotypes.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Worth reading once.