WINTER OF THE WHITE SEAL by Marie Herbert

WINTER OF THE WHITE SEAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Man-against-the-elements--in a strong, if wildly sentimental, rendition set in 1818 Antarctica. Jonathan Horn, sea-loving son of a prosperous Liverpool shipping merchant, runs away from home because he despises inherited wealth: he's robbed in London, then taken aboard a loathsome sealer, Moonraker, and quickly finds himself bound for the sealing beaches beyond Cape Horn. When a herd is found, the slaughter goes on for three days and nights without sleep as furs are collected and blubber boiled. The workers are attacked by a rival Dutch crew; the ship sails to a new beach. And when Horn tries to stop a sailor from killing a white seal nursing a white pup, he gets knocked out and left behind with the equipment. He's marooned! So, for the next 16 months, Horn lives in a stone-and-snow hut, his only companions the seals (with their ghastly odors) and thousands of waddling penguins. Tender-hearted Horn must come to terms with killing seals and penguins to live; one immense monster of an elephant seal knocks his hut over, and later must be met in combat. And meanwhile Horn and Scruff, the white pup, fall into a deep mutual affection: she stays with him when the seals leave for their winter grounds. By midwinter, however, he's starving, jealous of Scruff's vitality, going mad: only after Scruff saves his life (bringing him sustenance) does he come back to his senses. And, in a tear-jerking finale, he decides to trek to another part of the island. . . but he must turn Scruf's affections away from him so that she won't wait for him and die of starvation. An unusual mix, then--vivid, gritty physical description (with no minimizing of seal stinks or wildlife violence) and Lassie-Come-Home sentimentality in the portrait of man-and-beast--which may appeal to a fairly broad outdoors/animal-story audience.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow