21 September, 2011

This Accursed Land by Lennard Bickel (1977)

I chanced upon this book with its icy cyan cover while cleaning out my brother’s house after he died a few years back. Odd, because he didn’t much read. It is the story of Mawson in Antarctica, and it’s one of the most extraordinary tales of survival you will ever read. The author Bickel, an ABC science reporter, brings journalistic brevity and immediacy to the story with startling effect. The result is utterly engrossing and will stay with you for a long time – or at least it has for me, but perhaps for other reasons.

07 September, 2011

The Balloonist by Macdonald Harris (1976)

This novel, inspired by an actual attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon in the 1890’s, is a well-wrought tale of adventure that includes a rather odd but memorable love affair. Harris seems very much forgotten, and yet he wrote to some acclaim in his day and is cited by authors such as Philip Pullman as an influence on their work (most obvious perhaps in Northern Lights). He is very adept at describing the science of the day along with the practice of ballooning, but surprisingly he is at his best with his creative rendering of the erotic.