From Publishers Weekly
If ever a man needed saving from the enthusiasm of his admirers," Crane begins, "it was Scott." But although this hefty biography strips away much of the legend and mystique surrounding the polar expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott, it's still infused with hero worship. In addition to his leadership skills, Crane claims Scott was the only polar explorer to possess significant literary talent, and his writings—especially the final message scrawled as he lay dying in the Antarctic wastelands—"extend our sense of what it is to be human." The twin centerpieces of Scott's story are, of course, his two expeditions to Antarctica, both of which are recreated here with meticulous detail. Crane understands, however, that Scott's accomplishments in the polar region were shaped by his earlier experiences in the Royal Navy; thus the narrative is equally strong in recounting how Scott was able to overcome fierce opposition to his leadership of the first trip and how the rivalry with former crewmate Ernest Shackleton spurred the second. "Personality and character went on playing a decisive role in polar exploration long after it had been relegated to the margins of other history," Crane writes, and for all the dramatic action, it is Scott the man who most captivates the author—and readers. 16 pages of photos, maps. (Nov. 15)
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Robert Falcon Scott and his four companions died from hunger and cold in 1912; they had reached the South Pole on January 18, only to discover that the Norwegian Amundsen had beaten them there a month earlier. The confirmation of Scott's death was met by an outpouring of public grief in Britain; he was quickly elevated to the status of an imperial martyr, on the level of Wolfe, Nelson, and Gordon. But in subsequent decades, journalists and biographers painted Scott as a self-absorbed, rash blunderer whose hubris led to the needless death of himself and his men. Crane strives to present both the heroic and less-admirable aspects of Scott's public career. He also provides interesting glimpses of the turmoil in Scott's private life. It is Scott's accomplishments and failures as an explorer that make his life so compelling, and Crane's story is at its best when he uses Scott's letters and diaries to describe the Antarctic expeditions. Here we see an enthralling, beautiful, but deadly landscape. This is a fair and often exciting saga of a still controversial figure. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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