The Arctic Fury
Momma Leighellen's Book Club
Have you ever read a book and enjoyed it so much you actually wanted MORE? I feel like I totally geeked out while reading this book. The Arctic Fury is over 400 pages long and yet it wasn’t enough. By the end I found myself googling ship wrecks and watching Youtube videos about mountaineers to learn more about these people and to see if any of them actually existed.
“Women can do far more than the narrow lens of society deems fitting. I suspect there is nothing, literally nothing, of which women are not capable.”
The Arctic Fury is such a creative concept as it follows an all women’s expedition to the Arctic, told in a dual timeline narrative set in the 1800’s. The leader of the group, Virginia Reeve, is on trial for murder, having returned from the expedition with only half her crew. The story flawlessly bounces between the details of the trial and flashbacks to the events of the harrowing journey. It also dives into her past, as before this trip she co-led groups along the Oregon Trail.
While the characters in the book are fictional, several are inspired by real women. There really was a female British mountaineer who completed 98 expeditions. There also was a journalist who served as the first American female war correspondent. And there really existed a Lady Jane Franklin who was responsible for several expeditions to the Arctic in an attempt to find her husband.
“She reminded herself that anyone looking at her would see her sober dress and calm expression. Not the fire that burned inside. Not the lingering ghosts of her past.”
What I loved was this version of history, rich with strong women and diversity. So much of the history we read about has been white washed or is told only from a male perspective. It makes me think of the line in Hamilton “who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” In this book, the author imagines a history full of rich characters from marginalized identities. She empowers them and creates a complex narrative of class, race, and gender that had me begging for more and looking up what was true or not. There are 13 women on the expedition and each one could get their own novella and I’d be totally satisfied!
My only quibbles with the story were with suspension of disbelief. I felt like several of the women weren’t at ALL qualified for this type of trip and there were times when I couldn’t believe they would have taken off so ill prepared. How could they set out with out proper training or some sort of team bonding? They seemed doomed to fail. But I was sucked into the story and the author’s descriptive writing style makes me feel like I am with them in the crammed ship or upon the frozen ice.