Under a Pole Star

Under a Pole Star

by Stef Penney

Overview: A whaler's daughter, Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of twelve, falling in love with the cold and unforgiving terrain and forging lifelong bonds with the Inuit people who have carved out an existence on its icy plains. She sets out to become a scientist and polar explorer, despite those who believe that a young woman has no place in this harsh world, and in 1892, her determination leads her back to northern Greenland at the head of a British expedition.

Yearning for wider horizons, American geologist Jakob de Beyn joins a rival expedition led by the furiously driven Lester Armitage. When the path of Flora's expedition crosses theirs, the three lives become intertwined. All are obsessed with the north, a place of violent extremes: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows; heroism and selfishness. Armitage's ruthless desire to be the undisputed leader of polar discovery sets in motion a chain of events whose tragic outcomes--both for his team of scientists and the indigenous people of Greenland--will reverberate for years to come.

Set against the stark, timeless beauty of northern Greenland and fin-de-si?cle New York and London, Under a Pole Star is a compelling look at the dark side of the golden age of exploration, a study of the corrosive power of ambition, and an epic, incendiary love story. It shows that sometimes you have to travel to the farthest edge of the world in order to find your true place in it.

Faith Bowers (07/22/18): This is Stef Penney’s latest novel. I had read The Tenderness of Wolves because it was a Costa Prize winner. I didn’t review it and though it was another book about ice and winter, this one has beautiful writing about ice, ice bergs, snow, winter, cold and summer north of Iceland. She takes you on four well written journeys into the north, one as a whaler and three as explorers in the last part of the 19th century. It is centered around a romance between two explorers and their personal journeys. Her best writing is about nature and life in vigorous climates, though she develops her main characters. This is not an easy read and has a lot of science and geography but I did enjoy the book.
Rating: ***

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