Title: The White Darkness
Author: Geraldine McCaughrean
What can I say about this book? Right from the start, the author casts a spell and draws the reader in. As the story develops, and an ordinary British schoolgirl finds herself on an increasingly strange trip to Antarctica, everything that happens feels entirely real, and absolutely possible. It’s an amazing achievement, given the extreme events of the story. The first-person narrative is immersive and convincing, and Sym’s level-headed storytelling keeps the reader hooked and entirely accepting of all the plot’s twists and surprises.
We also fear for Sym’s safety, as the uncle who brings her to the Antarctic becomes more and more obsessed with proving an unlikely scientific theory. As they travel together Sym begins to question his motives, and his role in her family’s story. As the conditions around her grow more extreme, Sym remains grounded and reliable, taking everything that happens in her stride however dangerous her surroundings become.
Sym has a secret, and it is the key to the book. She’s deaf, but she hears the voice of Captain Oates in her head – Titus Oates of ‘I am just going outside and I may be some time’ fame. Her narration is full of conversations with the long-dead explorer, and their relationship is wonderful – warm, truthful, and frequently heartbreaking as he reminds her of his death in an Antarctic blizzard.
I can’t do this book justice in a short review. It is a wonderful, magical story told by a down-to-earth narrator who speaks to a dead man in her head. It is an absurd but entirely convincing journey into the unique landscape of Antarctica. It is like nothing I have read before, and I adored it. Five stars.
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Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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