fortnightly monthly! summary of what I’ve been reading and listening to.
South! by Sir Ernest Shackleton
E-book on my iPod
This true story of Antarctic adventure in the early years of the 20th Century starts a little slowly, as Shackleton recounts the slow and frustrating progress of the expedition on the ship Endeavour as they vainly try to find a way through pack ice to make a landing on the Antarctic coast.
But it really takes off as a story of almost superhuman endurance and struggle when the Endeavour becomes permanently frozen into the ice, and is eventually crushed and destroyed, leaving nearly 30 men stranded on the shifting ice floes, hundreds of miles from the nearest land and with no hope of communicating with the outside world to seek rescue.
They float with the ice for many long months, unable to do more than hope that they will drift far enough north that they can become free of the pack ice and launch the ship’s boats which they drag with them from floe to floe. The long, long struggle to reach land is harrowing. Finally they manage to struggle ashore on Elephant Island, a desolate crag with barely any shore – and no people. From there, Shackleton and another five men set out in the strongest boat to try to reach the nearest outpost of civilization – the whaling station on South Georgia. Amazingly, they manage to do it, only to find they are on the far side of the island from the whaling station, and so have to trek across mountains and glaciers to reach help.
Even when they do reach the station, it is many months before a ship can successfully reach the stranded men on Elephant Island. It is astonishing that despite all the privations, not one man was lost on the expedition. And grimly ironic that most of the men, once rescued, set off for home to join up with those still fighting in the trenches in World War I, where many of them are then killed.
Real – but true life – Boy’s Own material.
The Appeal by John Grisham
This is a bleak indictment of the power of corporations and their disdain for the common person, as Grisham looks at the fall-out from a courtroom success against a major chemical company. The little guy – the community devastated by pollution of their water supply by the company – has won! But has he? Not if the billionaire running the company has anything to say about it. Quite gripping reading, but ultimately pretty depressing.
All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson
E-book on my iPhone
This is the latest in Robinson’s series about Detective Chief Inspector Banks, set in the North of England. And I think Robinson has finally jumped the shark with the series. What starts off as apparently a straightforward case of murder-suicide by a homosexual man blows out into a pointless investigation into whether the murder had been triggered by Iago-like whisperings from another party – pointless because it’s clear all through that no charges can be laid against such a person – and into fantastical stuff with the involvement of Britain’s spy agency MI6 (with apparently unlimited powers).
Definitely not the best book of the series, but possibly the last, as I can’t see where Robinson can go from here with any credibility. A great pity.
I’m currently part-way through:
- Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Hardcover, my own library) – yes, I’m still reading this.
- Almost Perfect by W.E. Pete Peterson (Ebook)
- Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell (Audiobook)