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Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat Hardcover – October, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A shaggy-cat tale, in which Alexander (The Way to Xanadu, 1994, etc.) gives us the feline perspective on travel and exploration in turn-of-the-century Antarctica. Mrs. Chippy is a cat--a tomcat, actually, but a very elegant one whose grace and manners and devotion to his master (Harry ``Chippy'' McNeish) inspired the joke that they are as good as married. Chippy McNeish is ship's carpenter aboard the Endurance, which set sail from London on August 1, 1914, on a voyage to the South Pole that was led by Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Mrs. Chippy has her role to play, of course, and it is no small one: hunting mice, keeping watch on deck, and looking after the general well-being of her master and his crewmates. He tells his story through the pages of his journal, which record the daily rituals of weather, naps, navigation, and meals. Once they find themselves stranded in a sea of ice, however, the expedition is forced to encamp for the duration, hoping that their rations will hold out until the thaws--which, as it turned out, were nearly a year in coming. Mrs. Chippy keeps a more level head than most of his crewmates during this long confinement, and he may actually have been their salvation insofar as he injected a familiar note of domesticity and routine into the hardships of their situation (``I myself am very disciplined by nature and have set myself a strict winter regime: Wake at 2:00 p.m.; stretch, wash, take breakfast by the galley stove, greet shipmates, etc.''). By the end, when the ice floes break and the Weddell Sea is open once more, Mrs. Chippy is more popular than ever. Too cute for comfort: after about 20 pages of this, even cat- lovers may find themselves feeling pretty seasick. (12 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

Now, I can't vouch for the authenticity of this newly found document, but I can say that Alexander has done a fine job in keeping Mrs. Chippy's jottings from succumbing to the preciousness often found in books written by animals, while allowing the cat's (and her own) sense of humor to have full run. -- The New York Times Book Review, Robert R. Harris
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (October 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006017546X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060175467
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As criticized by other reviewers, this book does not pretend any falsehoods. It is a fictionalized account, of course, but is based on the accounts and journals of ALL of the crew, not just the famous or the high ranking. The true hardships are recounted in the footnotes, most notably excerpts from the diary of Henry McNeish, Chippy,s owner, bunk mate and ships carpenter. In a way Mrs. Chippy's account, built from references of all the other journals, speaks for those also marginalized and also only known through footnotes. McNeich spent 28 hours toiling in waist deep frigid water to build a coffer dam in an attempt to hold back the water in the beginning of the end for the Endurance. Do we remember his name? Perce Blackborow, young and desperate for adventure, stowed away and worked hard as ships steward, assisted and filled in for the cook when he fell injured. Do we remember his name? Louis Rickinson and A.J. Kerr, ships engineers, worked at the boilers below decks, even as the ice is pressing the hull made all manner of horrible and terrifying noises. Do we remember their names? Through Mrs. Chippy's eyes we catch a glimpse of all the crew, in their bravery and their humanity. Lastly, any who would question the character or depth of relationship between even the hardened explorer and the ships cat, consider the following: Commander Frank Worsley, the Captain of the Endurance, chose the photo of Chippy and Blackborow that adorns the cover of this book as one of the few he published. ALL the diaries of the members of the expedition had descriptions of Chippy. Let me close with this quote from the poet Christopher Smart from his ode to his cat, Jeoffry:
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
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Format: Hardcover
Mrs. Chippy's Last Adventure is the best-written book I have read in many years (and I read a LOT!) The book is written from the point of view of Mrs. Chippy, a (male) cat who was privileged enough to join Shackleford's Polar expedition in the early 1900's and who was stranded in the polar ice fields along with the remaining 28 crew members. The book is based on actual events and a great deal of research obviously went into the telling of this remarkable human and feline-interest story. The author captures Mrs. Chippy's world view remarkably well; cat lovers will KNOW that they are seeing these events unfold through the eyes of a very perspicacious cat. As an added bonus, Mrs. Chippy is a damn funny feline, albeit sometimes unintentionally - I laughed out loud throughout the book.
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Format: Hardcover
You've read the tale of the Endurance and you can't get enough of this incredible epic. You must now read 'Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition'. Ms. Alexander, in a delightfully strange manner, has provided a unique perspective on both the expedition and on the relationship between a cat and its mates. If you read 'The Endurance', you already appreciate Ms. Alexander's scholarly and literary abilities. (Frankly, it easily rivals the accounts of Lansing and even Shackleton, himself.) When you read 'Mrs. Chippy', you will also appreciate her profound perception of both feline and human behavior. It's a pity that other reviewers feel they must exhibit their knowledge of Mrs. Chippy's actual fate, but don't worry, if you love cats, nothing can prepare you for the end of this book. Thank you, Caroline Alexander, for a truly remarkable story.
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Format: Paperback
I can't say enough good things about this book. However, I think it's obvious that any review of it must take into account that while the story takes place in actual historical context, the book's literary content, being the journal of a domesticated cat, is clearly fabricated. I find it humorous that several reviewers seem to have forgotten this and have criticized it for being somehow unrealistic.
The book is a journal of the Endurance's carpenter's cat, Mrs. Chippy (apparently, ships' carpenters are often nicknamed "Chips"). We learn that Mrs. Chippy took his responsibilities as an explorer, including keeping a stern watch to monitor the ship's progress, helping his mate in carpentry projects, and mousing, quite seriously. In fact, Chippy's concern for the maintenance of ship routine through the monotony of the shipwreck period surpasses that of virtually any other crew member.
If you've read any account of the Endurance Expedition already, you will quite likely enjoy this book for its thoughtful alternative perspective. It is not sappy in the least - Chippy's intelligent writing allows us to see him as he sees himself: as the 29th crew member on the expedition.
If you have to ask, "how did Chippy learn how to write?" or "when did he find the time?", you're not appreciating the books purpose - to entertain and provide a little insight into how an animal might have been more than slightly responsible for maintaining the crew's sanity.
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By A Customer on March 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Let me first say that this book was given to me as a marvelously thoughtful gift after I put my cat to sleep. The giver, knowing how much I like reading about Scott, Franklin and Shackleton, discovered this marvelous little book about a cat on Shackleton's famous South expedition. It was amazingly thoughtful, except the giver had no idea what happened on the South Expedition.
Now, I must confess to dunderheadedness in reading this book the minute I received it. I knew what happened. Still, thanks to Alexander's marvelous writing I so fell in love with the indomitable spirit of Mrs. Chippy that I fully expected Alexander would fudge the story a bit and take Mrs. Chippy along. Mrs. Chippy meets her fate with grace and dignity -- as peacefully as my beloved cat. It's not horrible, not maudlin, but very emotional.
This is definitely a better book to give to an expedition enthusiast and cat lover whose cat is still living. Even then, the reader is bound to shed a tear or two. The reader who has just put their beloved cat to sleep is going to cry her heart out.
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