Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Ice Child

The Ice Child by Elizabeth McGregor

Bought this one as an ebook after hearing the author speak at the Wimborne Literary festival. The novel combines a true historical story - of John Franklin's doomed expedition to chart the north-west passage in the 1840s - with a current day story of an archaeologist and his son who are obsessed with the Franklin story.

Jo Harper is a journalist asked to cover a story about an archaeologist who is missing in the Arctic. When he is found and she meets him, they fall in love and they have a child. But their relationship is doomed - he is killed in an accident for which his older son John blames himself. John, distraught, goes off the radar on archaeological digs and eventually on an expedition of his own to try to find out more about what happened to Franklin's men. Meanwhile Jo's child falls ill with a rare disease, and needs a bone marrow transplant to have any hope of survival. The best match is with his half-brother, John, but he too, echoing his father and Franklin before, is missing in the Arctic.

Entwined with this story is the tale of Franklin's expedition, told from the viewpoint of ship's boy, Gus. The ships become icebound and are eventually abandoned. The crews die, one by one of scurvy, pneumonia, TB and starvation.

This was a brilliant novel - fantastic prose, fascinatingly researched. With Frozen Planet on the TV and a recent ski trip under my belt I felt I could identify with the descriptions of the Arctic. Definitely recommended.

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