Author: Thomas Wharton

Published: 1995

Genre: Historical fiction

About Icefields: On a climbing expedition in 1898, Dr. Ned Byrne slipped into a crevasse in the Arcturus Glacier. What he saw while he waited for rescue would haunt him for the next 25 years.

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Review of Icefields

His head and chest pounded with a dull throb of pain that he realized was his own heartbeat. He had to think, keep his mind working and alert. What would the orientation of this artifact be if he were not looking at it upside down? Had it fallen from above? Or seeped in from below? Did the ice encasing it cause a magnifying effect? It seemed to be very large. Large enough, if it suddenly stirred to life and flowed toward him through the ice, to surround and enfold him with its wings.

He closed his eyes. When he looked again, the light had faded. The ice wall was blank.

He laughed. It was absurd. A magnificent, impossible figure from a long-forgotten childhood dream.

...from pages 12-13

Nearly everyone in the book was obsessed with something: Byrne with the glacier, Elspeth with Byrne, Rawson with Freya, Freya with travel, Trask with making money. But, maybe because of that, the characters lacked depth. Their respective obsessions were almost all that was revealed. Byrne, in particular, was a difficult character to sympathize with. The other characters found him to be standoffish and reserved and so did I. Fortunately, Byrne, instead of being the star of the book, was simply the central, somewhat oblivious, character. The real star of the book was the glacier.

I've been to Jasper and I've seen the Athabasca Glacier. I don't know if that influenced my enjoyment of the book or not but it did give me some frame of reference for the setting. And, having seen a glacier, it was easier to understand Byrne's fascination. It was, to me, far more than just a big chunk of ice.

I liked the writing style which included journal entries, letters, and scientific notes (which sounds kind of boring but wasn't). I liked that various real life people made fictional appearances (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for example). I liked the quiet understated tone of the book as a whole. It was well-written and different and I'm glad that I read it.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath.

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More Reviews

Craig Burrell, All Manner of Thing, 5 March 2007
“There is a dreamy quality that permeates the entire story.”
Pooker3, 27 December 2007
“An enjoyable and interesting read, at times thought provoking and at times quite magical.”
Katie, Book Blog, 20 August 2004
“...the imagery is quite rich.”


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Added 09 April 2008.
Updated 28 August 2013.