Monday, May 04, 2009

Into White Silence

Author: Anthony Eaton Publication Date: 2008 Category: Young Adult/CBC Short List 2009 Who'll want to read it? Adventure readers, readers of books about extreme expeditions and adventurers, such as Ernest Shackleton, Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Edmund Hillary. Point of no return: The Author's Introduction in which the journal of Lieutenant William Downes is introduced. And he informs the reader that he stole this journal from the station library at Casey Antarctic Base. Classic line: "And there is one memory - one moment, which I cannot place as either dream or reality, but which I can still recall with absolute clarity - I remember looking up into the face of the Ice man, as he stood over me." What's it all about? A mad ambitious, expedition leader with only one goal - to reach the South Pole using an untried route, a black, steel clad ship, and all 32 men and dogs on board the vessel Raven, in 1922. If it wasn't for the words - this is a work of fiction - on the verso of the title page, I would have believed this book to be non-fiction. It is the powerful, haunting account of an expedition to Antarctica told through the journal of Lieutenant William Downes, from the past, and the author's own words from present times. I would have believed that Anthony Eaton had actually stolen the journal on his sojourn in Antarctica, and Downes really did leave his parents home at Weatherly Station, near Ballarat, and his fiancee, Elsie, never to return. It all reads like an autobiography of Shackleton or a journal by Scott. The horrendous journey, braving the Antarctic seas, as well as the single-mindedness of the expedition leader, is horror enough. But the deprivations, and hopelessness of their situation when they come in sight of their landfall is beyond human tolerance. Yet I could not lift my eyes from the page, I had to find out how, where and why each tragic event was to be met. And then there is the sheer, cold, mesmerising beauty of the Antarctic, the Southern Aurora, the stars and sunsets. This book will haunt my dreams - day and night. I feel the pull of that extreme south land, I want to see the curious Adele penguins, the Southern Aurora. Eaton has brought to life our history and given insight to a land of mystery and wonder, also of science and extremes, of what makes people follow the "lure of little voices", to step into white silence. Publisher: Woolshed Press