Many writers who portray the quest to reach the South Pole focus on a particular explorer, or perhaps two explorers, namely Scott and Shackleton. Alan Gurney has gone much further, beginning his retelling with the seafarers of the 1700s. While he cracks the occasional clever dry joke, Gurney's book reads more like a drudging college textbook, at times all but lulling the reader to sleep! It's a shame, because he obviously is a talented writer.
The stories of the progress of Antarctic exploration are interesting, and the real-life characters diverse. The problem seems to lie in the overbearing technicality of the writing – too many details are squeezed in too small a space to keep things interesting. I love to learn new things, but had to give up on this book before I finished it. Normally, my rule is that if a book hasn't “grabbed” me by page 25, it's time to move on. I read past page 100 in this tome, trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt and a chance to showcase that bit of wry wit and creativity I had caught little snatches of. Alas, it was to no avail.
The book was published in 2000 through W. W. Norton & Company. Suggested retail price for the US is $26.95, or $36.99 in Canada. ISBN 0-393-05004-1. I am quite glad I found this for free at the local library. I think with effort this skilled author could share a book that brings out more of the adventure and less of the tone of an intellectual tract. Perhaps his attention to detail can be attributed to his former career of designing yachts. Whatever the reason, he lost me in the minutiae.