South: The Endurance Expedition (7/10)

South: The Endurance Expedition, while not for everyone, was surprisingly interesting and eye-opening.  The non-fiction account of the “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition”, written by the esteemed leader of the quest, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, is the paradigm of a story of strength and endurance in adverse conditions.  In short, the 1914-17 mission — to cross the Antarctic continent and gather scientific information — was a complete and utter failure.  A brief encapsulation of the story would be:

  • Cold — they were really, really cold
  • Stranded — their ship sank
  • Hungry — they were pretty hungry
  • Tired — they couldn’t sleep, because they were cold and hungry
  • Sick — they got scurvy and frostbite, and were malnourished
  • Penguins, seals, and albatrosses — they made tasty meals for the explorers
  • Courage and hard work — they were courageous, and worked hard

They were cold, hungry, tired, sick, bored, cold, courageous, and cold for two years and twenty three days, and then all of them got rescued.  It could make an enthralling book, full of drama and inspiration, but in this form, it is somewhat lackluster. I guess the most interesting part of the book is that it isn’t what I would normally choose to read — the rest was pretty dull.

Because the author does not use any literary devices and the style is strictly a chronological third-person record of the events of the expedition, there isn’t much to say about the “literary devices and other points about the author’s style”, other than that it isn’t exciting.  I’d say the writing is good, for a non-fiction book partly cobbled together from diaries.

You would definitely enjoy this book if you enjoy reading dry and factual books about Antarctic expeditions occurring from 1914 to 1917.  You might enjoy this if you want to venture outside of your reading comfort zone — it certainly made me contemplate, and really think about the Antarctic.  You will not enjoy this if you think that penguins, seals, and albatrosses have the same rights as humans, and should not be eaten, or you otherwise do not keep an open mind.

In short, South is a bland account of a inspiring expedition, yet still eye-opening and worth consideration.  I wouldn’t read it for fun, but I’ll still probably watch the movies and I’m glad I read it.

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