Author: Hampton Sides
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: My favorite narrative nonfiction this year! Well-researched and packed with details that bring this more fantastic than fiction adventure story to life.
The north pole was the late nineteenth century’s final frontier. Popular belief suggested that an undiscovered group of people might live at the pole in a region kept habitable by warm ocean water flowing under a surrounding ring of ice. After a rescue mission in which he acquitted himself heroically, navy man George Washington De Long was the obvious choice to lead the next expedition. With funding from eccentric newspaper owner Gordon Bennett, he led a team of 32 men (including a reporter) on a voyage aiming for the pole. However, as their ship was first trapped in ice and then smashed to pieces, it quickly became clear that the men of the expedition would be lucky to make it home alive.
With this book, it was love at first sight. I’ve been looking forward to reading In The Kingdom of Ice since I first heard of it months ago and somehow it still exceeded my expectations. The author’s use of direct quotes was fantastic. They were seamlessly integrated into the story and made the experiences of the explorers more vivid. They also helped to capture the feel of an age with a strong national desire for innovation and exploration. Together with the author’s engaging narration, they made the book feel Jules Vernesque in a number of wonderful ways. The characters were larger than life as were the insane feats they attempted. Despite being 400 pages, this was easy to get through and impossible to put down.
My only small complaint with this book is that the author often described people’s feelings and personalities without citing specific sources as support. However, the author has clearly read extensively through the logs of the crew members, so I’m inclined to believe that this is well-informed speculation. Either way, these details about the people involved in the story, as well as detailed descriptions of every aspect of the adventure, made this story a pleasure to read. Truly, I was blown away by the author’s ability to craft a compelling narrative while constrained by the framework of true events. I don’t think any fictional embellishments could have improved on this true story. I’d highly recommend this to anyone, but particularly to fans of Mitchel Zuckoff or Jules Verne.