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North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice Hardcover – August 31, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgraw-Hill; First Edition edition (August 31, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070580529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070580527
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Following his "Arctic dreams" that began with a photograph of the haggard crew of the ill-fated ship Endurance, Alvah Simon and his wife, Diana, set sail to winter in the high north. "We call them explorers, but I knew that look in their eyes," Simon writes of the early Arctic adventurers. "They were seekers, and that is a different thing." With self-discovery as a deeper agenda, the couple ventures into Tay Bay of remote Bylot Island; it is their ultima Thule--"the Last Unknown." Their small boat is willingly frozen in the ice. When Diana is airlifted out of the Arctic to tend to an emergency back home, Simon is unexpectedly left in solitude. His journey turns inward as he confronts the "uncomfortable awakening of my spiritual self." In the waning daylight, then total darkness, Simon's days are punctuated by depression and mania, a crackled voice over the radio, Inuit visitors, and hard-earned lessons as he is driven by the forces of the Arctic winter and by "the total loss of the sun." In this elegant, well-paced book, the Arctic darkness becomes a psychological landscape perforated with light and revelation, and Simon's thrilling tale is as captivating as his language. There is a welcome intimacy here as we share the same icy hull, listening close to this searching man. Simon courageously tells us about his darkest moments, dreams, and nightmares, and when the sun emerges, new eyes greet land and relationships. Simon has discovered his ultima Thule. --Byron Ricks

From Publishers Weekly

In the summer of 1992, Simon and his wife, both experienced adventurers, set off in a 36-foot sailboat, the Roger Henry, toward northern Canada to spend a year above the Arctic Circle. In his survival memoir, Simon recounts the physical and psychological demands of the Arctic with an almost sheepish bravado; his capacity to discuss the beauty of the landscape, the culture of the Inuit and the protean nature of glacial ice is matched only by a reckless drive to make his journey more "authentic" by taking unnecessary, and often life-endangering, risks. This juxtaposition makes for gripping reading, particularly when Simon is left alone to face the sunless, sub-zero winter months of "lifesucking cold" after his wife is called away to be with her dying father. Yet the author's account is often frustratingly lacking in introspection. Running low on fuel as the cold and darkness press in on him, Simon, in harrowing solitude from November to March, might have paused to offer some self-reflection on the mixed motives of the contemporary survivalist-adventurer?a dilemma discussed in much greater depth in John Krakauer's Into the Wild, for example. Instead, Simon delivers the tropes we have come to expect from this genre (humility in the face of nature, an unfocused critique of "civilization," the romanticization of native cultures), none of which are made more convincing in light of his daredevil behavior and steel-sided ship. Some readers may be troubled by the absence of a reason for this adventure, other than to flirt with death. Editor, Jon Eaton; rights, McGraw-Hill.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This book is very well written and, was actually very entertaining.
dominic shepard
Ordinarily when I see a book with tiny printing like this one, I usually back off or end up putting the book down forever halfway through.
Paulette Kenyon
This is a deeply moving, honest, informative, and rewarding story of a journey taken by Diana and Alvah Simon.
R. H. Kaige

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
In 1994-95 the author, his wife Diana, and their cat named Halifax, sailed to the Arctic in their 36-foot cutter, the Roger Henry, for an arctic experience. They spent a year in Baffin Bay, off the coast of Greenland, completely frozen in during the winter. His excellent writing is full of facts, from the mechanical details of getting making their boat seaworthy, to the history, geography, wildlife and interactions with the Intuit people.
Beyond that, though, there was something more. The challenges he faces are stark and realistic and he makes mistakes along the way nearly costing him his life, grappling with internal challenges as well as external ones. Along the way he learns great lessons in life.
As I read this book, I was right there with him, feeling his awe at the natural beauty, his thrill of the adventure as well as his loneliness and his fear. I was also constantly impressed by his ingenuity in solving the many constant technical unforeseen problems.
I couldn't put the book down, staying up almost all night to just keep reading and reading. I know I'll never take a trip like this. But I thank him for writing the book and giving me the privilege of experiencing just a little bit of this wild and frozen landscape.
Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Iguana on March 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"North to the Night" would be a great true adventure story even if it were written only as a mere chronology of a fantastic trip to the high arctic. It is more than that. Fortunately, the author saw fit to weave the story of his own intra and interpersonal "voyages" into the narrative itself. For those, unfortunately, who are unable to indentify with his virtual despair on returning to "civiization" after thirteen years of sailing adventures or his obsession to spend a year virtually alone in the high artic, such intimate personal discussions might seem bizarre or self-serving. I found it all fascinating. So, too, with his discussions of the Inuit and the Arctic environment itself. Sensitive, insightful and, like the book as a whole, beautifully written. I have for years been a fan of sailing adventure stories and have read many. This is one of the best. I only hope his next book is not too far off.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Randy Yoder on January 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
What a read this book turned out to be. If you enjoyed "Into Thin Air", you'll like this one. Much like "Into Thin Air" it's the story of a man who's spirit of adventure almost gets the best of him, as he sets off to explore and experience a world once unknown to him on his own. As his journey progresses he begins to realize that as much as he'd like to think he's in control, there is a higher power that seems to be watching over him and keeping him safe. What I enjoyed most about the book were the pictures in my mind I was creating as Alvah was describing them in print: the giant ice-bergs, the polar bears, night that streched on for months and the reapperance of the sun. It was fun to read and really was an interesting way to learn about a part of the world (and the people that live there) that I really hadn't read much about.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Undoubtedly one of THE best books I've read in my 30+ years - Alvah Simon paints a brilliant, raw picture of adventure and challenge in the grip of the Arctic. His storytelling is as riveting as his story, and I sacrificed many many things for reading time with him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Rainwater on January 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a sailor who reads a lot of sailing naratives, this one is great! Highly recommend it. Simon is insightful, and honest. There were several times in the book that Simon started to sound like a single-minded egotist, but in his story he keeps redeeming himself with renewed humility and insight. Through circumstance, he is forced to go into the shadow and face the great nemisis of humnankind, fear. We all deal with our fear through a combination of avoidance, denial, and confrontation. But in the extreme cold and dark of the north, Simon has no choice but to meet his fear, entertain it, live day-to-day with it, alone, until at last he recognizes that he can let go....and he does. Coming to trust in something larger than the extremes of the north, the brutality of the cold...he sees the freedom of simply recognizing the beauty of what is in this moment.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Sood on February 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
There is no doubt that Alvah Simon is a gifted, driven, and highly unusual individual. By embarking upon his "Spiritual Odyssey in the Arctic" he tested the strength of his boat (the Roger Henry), his love (Diana Simon), and his mind. By writing about it he has allowed us cold-fearing readers to live through the short days and long nights of the North.
In sum, his story is a captivating one. You definitely become attached to Alvah, but that doesn't always mean that you like him. Frequently, the author is condescending, unwilling to compromise, cheesy, and generally unpleasant. But through it all, he does remain honest - and this makes this story a worthwhile read. You feel for Alvah as when he is startled by a polar bear, or when he breaks his cats ear, or wakes up blind. You dive into the cold of his boat and the difficulties of day to day life at -30F. Throughout it all, you are thankful that it is he and not you.
I finished this book with an odd feeling of understanding. I was not there, but through his words, the author made me think that I was. I am writing this review months after having finished the book. And yet, I can still picture in my mind the pain and the pleasure that Alvah Simon endured. Very very powerful.
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