ANTARCTIC NAVIGATION by Elizabeth Arthur

ANTARCTIC NAVIGATION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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)

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41895-4
Page count: 816pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994




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