Monday, October 11, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages.

Just imagine yourself in the most hostile place on earth. It's not the Sahara or the Gobi Desert. It's not the Arctic. The most hostile place on earth is the Antarctic, the location of the South Pole--what's the difference? The Arctic is mostly water--with ice on top, of course--and that ice is never more than a few feet thick. But under the South Pole lies a continent that supports glaciers up to two miles in depth. Almost the entire southern continent is covered by ice. The mammoth icecap presses down so heavily that it actually distorts the shape of the earth. The ice never melts; it clings to the bottom of the world, spawning winds, storms, and weather that affect the whole planet.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World is an amazing survival story. Against all odds, these men--twenty-eight in all--led by Ernest Shackleton survived the harshest conditions imaginable. Of course, when these men set sail they had big dreams. They wanted to become the first team of explorers to cross Antarctica. But life doesn't always go as planned. And when their ship became trapped by ice, their mission changed. To survive was all that mattered. 

I loved this book. I did. There is a very good reason it won the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction. It fascinates from cover to cover. Amazing writing--storytelling. The book is so engaging, so compelling, so powerful, so amazing. I think the story would be gripping no matter who told it. But I do think that Jennifer Armstrong did a wonderful job in painting a very human picture of Shackleton and his crew. I think the ending was beautiful--very moving! This one is a book I think everyone should read.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

Isn't there a movie with Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton? Have you seen it? L.

audreygeddes said...

I can't wait to read this one. Thanks for the great review! I've been enlightened by a really interesting non-fiction book you might want to check out called, "The Sobering Truth," by Jeff Herten, M.D. The doctor chronicles his own experience and battle with drinking and exposes some medical facts that I didn't know about before like the fact that alcohol is the leading cause of osteoporosis.