Sara Wheeler, author of the acclaimed Terra Incognita
, became fascinated with Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard after reading The Worst Journey in the World
, his classic account of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole, of which he was a survivor. "His book was not the disembodied account of an expedition: it was an intimate reflection of the man behind the authorial mask. I wanted a glimpse of that man," she writes. What she offers is much more than a glimpse; Cherry
is a fascinating and detailed look at this complicated and often troubled hero.
A man of substantial means and a strong sense of duty, Cherry "recoiled from the sedate life of the country squire," throwing himself into strenuous adventures whenever he was not crippled by episodes of severe depression which haunted him his entire life. After returning from the pole, he traveled to eastern China as part of a zoological expedition and then served Britain in World War I before writing The Worst Journey in the World, which National Geographic has called the greatest adventure book of all time. Wheeler covers not only his many adventures, but the inner workings of the man, such as his bouts with mental illness, including delusional phases, hypochondria, and severe anxiety, all of which affected his physical health as well. She also covers his often complex relationships, including his close friendship with George Bernard Shaw, who certainly influenced Cherry's writing. Written with the cooperation of Cherry's widow and full access to his papers and notes, this is the first authorized biography of this extraordinary man. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
In a richly detailed and lyrical biography, Wheeler (Terra Incognito) traces the life of British adventurer Apsley Cherry-Garrard from his time as "a small boy with a lively imagination and a taste for snails and solitude" to his participation in Robert Scott's fateful 1911 expedition to reach the South Pole. While many have questioned and even vilified the members of Scott's voyage for everything from naivete to outright blundering, Wheeler takes a sympathetic, even reverent attitude toward her subject. Cherry-Garrard unfolds as a complicated figure whose youthful quest for adventure enmeshed him in an undertaking that towered over the rest of his life. While it would be hard for any historical account to rival Cherry-Garrard's own descriptions in his memoir The Worst Journey in the World, Wheeler tells the story of the entire voyage, whereas Cherry-Garrard focused on only one part of it. Though she quotes often from his book, the passages are complemented and occasionally contradicted by the journals of other members of the trip. In this way, Wheeler supplies the little facts that truly make her story vivid, like one explorer almost being killed by a 500-pound crate of hams propelled by a blizzard wind or another suggesting a can opener to cut through Cherry-Garrard's frozen clothes. Eloquent and gripping, Wheeler goes on to chronicle Cherry-Garrard's troubled homecoming and how, through writing his book and finding love late in life, the explorer made his ultimate discovery redemption.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.