An Antarctic Memoir
What do we stand to lose in a world without ice?
A decade ago, novelist and short story writer Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent — Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. Ice Diaries is the story of McNeil’s years spent in ice, not only in the Antarctic but her subsequent travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard, culminating in a strange event in Cape Town, South Africa, where she journeyed to make what was to be her final trip to the southernmost continent.
In the spirit of the diaries of Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, McNeil mixes travelogue, popular science, and memoir to examine the history of our fascination with ice. In entering this world, McNeil unexpectedly finds herself confronting her own upbringing in the Maritimes, the lifelong effects of growing up in a cold place, and how the climates of childhood frame our emotional thermodynamics for life. Ice Diaries is a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.
- Short-listed, Banff Mountain Book Competition 2016
“Ice Diaries is stunningly written and should be on the shelf of anyone fascinated by the globe’s final geographic and psychic frontier.”— New York Times Book Review
“McNeil’s first-person narrative of her experience wholly absorbs. . . Most of Ice Diaries, however, reads like a novel. It’s a paradox: the best novels emulate real life and the best true stories emulate fiction.” — Maclean’s
“Ice Diaries artfully conveys both the magical allure and the deadly hauteur of this icy world that few of us will ever see.” — Toronto Star
“[McNeil's] new book is a welcome literary-minded addition to a category of books dominated by male explorers.” — Metro
“She writes about the loneliness, the fear, the utter darkness, and the rare and incredible beauty of places few of us will ever visit. Highly recommended.” — For the Love of Books
“The reason I picked this book up was because I love that combination of geography, history and science but from a writer’s perspective. . . All in all this was a varied and enjoyable read.” — Books Are a Uniquely Portable Magic
“McNeil is a tremendous writer who brings the Antarctic landscape to life with the deftness of her prose, and her memoir is rich with fascinating details.” — Pickle Me This
“In Ice Diaries, McNeil brings the austere beauty and the constant danger of the continent to life. Weaving science and narrative, she draws vivid portraits of the people who are drawn to the unforgiving continent and the importance of the research conducted in the world’s icy places. Her descriptions of the ships and bases, those thin membranes against the elements, are unforgettable. . . Ice Diaries is a rare glimpse at an elusive continent and a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.” — SirReadaLot.org