RICHARD & JUDY BOOK CLUB 2017. SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 COSTA NOVEL AWARD.
'A novel of huge scope with a tremendous sense of period and place' Costa judges
'A dazzling tale of romance and survival' Guardian
Follow the path to the freezing north. Follow your ambition. Follow your heart
Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of twelve. Years later, in 1892, determination and chance lead her back to northern Greenland as a scientist at the head of a British expedition, defying the expectations of those who believe a woman has no place in that harsh world.
Geologist Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan. Yearning for wider horizons, he joins a rival expedition. Jakob and Flora's paths cross. It is a fateful meeting, where passion and ambition collide and an irresistible attraction is born.
The violent extremes of the north obsess them both: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows, and the strange, maddening pull it exerts on the people trying to make their mark on its vast expanses - a pursuit of glory whose outcome will reverberate for years to come.
This rich, thoroughly satisfying historical tale from Penney (The Invisible Ones) binds together adventure, passion, and love. The story opens with a frame sequence in 1948, as the elderly Flora Cochrane and young Randall Crane are set to fly to the North Pole as part of an American expedition. Randall is fascinated by Flora, so she recounts for him the Arctic explorations that she led a half-century before, a tale that makes up the bulk of the novel. It is on that earlier expedition that she met American geologist Jakob De Beyn, and a spark was struck between them. Though the two parted ways after the expedition, they carried a flame for each other despite living on opposite sides of the Atlantic and Flora's marriage to another man. Penney's prose is rapturous, whether she is describing the "overwhelmingly rich glorious and unnecessary" landscape, or in her detailed and richly imagined passages on the attraction and intimacy between Flora and Jakob. By telling their story through recollection and the letters that they send, Penney imparts an additional layer of suspense, with neither the reader nor the characters knowing what may come, resulting in an exciting and transportive novel.