Books by Elizabeth Arthur

Released: Jan. 22, 1995

Arthur (Looking for the Klondike Stone, 1993, etc.) has written a flawed but keenly imagined novel of a woman-led expedition to Antarctica that sets out to vindicate both the human spirit and Robert Scott, the famous polar failure. The story, narrated by Morgan Lamont, moves at a stately pace that is forgivable at first but later assumes the pace of the glaciers the expedition traverses on the way to the South Pole. A similar disparity is reflected in the story itself: In the first half, Lamont recalls growing up on a Colorado ranch in prose that is both lyrical and perceptive about nature, heroism, and the splendid power of books to catch the imagination. The second half too often becomes a mawkish, politically correct, and superficial indictment of the US, the West, and the British Empire as Lamont herself becomes more a lovesick Cosmo girl than the strong heroine she promised to be. Her unhappy childhood—her parents' divorce, her mother's unhappy remarriage—is relieved by kindly neighbors and by her fascination with Scott and the Antarctic. Though Scott lost the race to the Pole, he became a hero. Lamont, who wants to understand Scott's motives for trying—he admitted he had ``no predilection for polar exploration''—and why this failure caught the public's imagination, yearns to go to Antarctica to find out for herself. An unsatisfactory summer there is succeeded by a multimillion-dollar expedition replicating Scott's that is too conveniently financed by Lamont's long-estranged grandfather. Epic in concept and execution, it has new and old lovers, friends and acquaintances all joining forces to make Lamont's dream come true. A surfeit of riches, which is a pity, because there is so much to admire and enjoy. Like Scott's expedition, a magnificent failure. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: June 9, 1993

A loving celebration of those special refuges of childhood that are forever the measure of happiness for those fortunate enough to have known them. The intensity of the joy that novelist Arthur (Binding Spell, 1988, etc.) found in the five perfect seasons that she spent in the early 60's at Camp Wynakee in Vermont's Green Mountains was as much a reflection of the experience itself as a contrast to the rest of her life—about which she's rather reticent. Like a starving prisoner, she spent the months between camp-visits living on carefully apportioned memories of the summer before: ``I wanted to savor the summer in small mouthfuls so that it would last the whole year, and the month of September might see me eating just the first week, just the first day even. I was amazed at how much of the camp I could take with me if I slowed down in this manner.'' Arthur describes a summer at camp: the proper outfit she brought, so that the whole camp became her ``single outer garment''; the camp owners, who tried to help their charges ``discover the qualities we could be proud of''; the daily routine; special events like hikes to Bat Cave, the Fourth of July parade, and, best of all, Klondike Day. On this day, every camper took part in a search for the Klondike Stone, a large, hidden rock painted gold: The search was as much a holy quest as an exciting break in routine, a quest that epitomized all Arthur felt for the place and all that she'd learned there. Even if ``as the years have passed, and I have again brought my bag home empty, it seems I'm always getting nearer. In a way the more time I spend looking, the better I will like it.'' Like the author's camp memories, better savored than wolfed down: a splendid evocation of wisdom acquired in a demi-Eden by a writer of great grace and sensitivity. Read full book review >