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Icefields (1996)

Icefields (1996)
3.59 of 5 Votes: 1
0671002201 (ISBN13: 9780671002206)
washington square press
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Icefields (1996)
Icefields (1996)

About book: This book was a Canada Reads selection in 2008, defended by astronaut Steve MacLean. I’m sorry I missed it then, and pleased that I finished reading Wharton’s debut novel (published in 1995) this morning. I now want to read everything he’s written since!I was as intrigued by the story as the author’s writing style, as matter of fact and minimalistic as the opening line, “At a quarter past three in the afternoon, on August 17, 1898, Doctor Edward Byrne slipped on the ice of Arcturus Glacier in the Canadian Rockies and slid into a crevasse.” The story that follows is about the 25-year quest Dr. Byrne undertakes to determine whether the form of an angel he saw frozen in the ice as he hung, wedged upside down in the narrowing walls of the chasm, fighting hypothermia and awaiting rescue, was real or imagined. Ned Byrne tells no one why he returns to the ice fields every spring, choosing to live alone in a hut on the ice and painstakingly calculating the position where he hopes to see the angel fall out of the receding glacier onto the rocks one day. A self-described jigsaw maker, Wharton ignored conventional narrative and put the book together from story fragments he’d amassed, linking all the tales with and through the main protagonist, the cool and distant explorer from England. “I’ve discovered that’s what works for me,” Wharton says. “Writing as a road of surprises. I have to be surprised too, otherwise it’s not fun.”

This book transports you back in time when people were just beginning to travel to the Rockies for leisure, and naturalists were drawn to the unspoiled icefields. The author depicts the power of nature to draw men back again and again to see what will be revealed to them with the passage of time, and touches on the spiritual identity of the landscape.The main character, Dr. Byrne, is enthralled by the icefields, and spends his life trying to replicate or revisit an early experience of their power. The attention to detail paid to the areas' unique geography made me feel very Canadian, and I empathised with Byrne's efforts to find others who shared his passion for the landscape. The writer assumes all readers will share in this passion and he goes into great detail about the movement of the ice, making for a somewhat tenacious, one dimensional read. The twist is that this style perfectly mirrors the character of Byrne, and this characters' unwavering tenacity leads him to the answers he had been seeking.
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Icefields was chosen for Canada Reads 2008 on CBC by the Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean. I picture glaciers of 100 years ago as these thick, impenetrable expanses of ice, but the author must see things differently. He has chosen to tell this story in fragments of journals, newspaper clippings, and narrative accounts. Wharton has also drawn on about six different myths to get him through. I feel like this book suffers from the author including too much. The story is too busy and left me wanting to read Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.
Of everything I enjoyed the imagery and the italics of this book. The italics were different peoples poetry or journal entries throughout. They were personalized, raw and didn't always make sense until I read them again. Ordinarily that would frustrate me but in this book it intrigued me.The imagery was appealing because of course it's an entire book about ice. How many different ways can one describe their surroundings when they are surrounded by ice? Well, you'd be surprised my friends. My trouble is the open end. There isn't enough of a plot or development to warrant a sequel and yet the end is left open like you should be expecting one. Though I can't imagine any type of sequel would be more than a chapter long. The entire book is a journey, a search for something one researcher saw a decade ago when he fell into an ice crevase. He never finds it...or does he? No, really, I have no idea.
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