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One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead Mass Market Paperback – February 22, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In British author Dudman's stunning first adult novel, she reveals the poetry of science, interweaving a deep character study of German meteorologist Alfred Wegener (1880–1930) with scenes of pulse-pounding Arctic adventure. Today, Wegener's theory of continental drift, with some refinements, is accepted as scientific truth. During his time, however, Wegener was seen as an eccentric failure. Dudman allows Wegener to tell his own story in first-person present tense. This approach utterly immerses the reader in a sensual, detail-rich world. Dudman's prose is luminous, as in Wegener's reverie over the pages of a rare old book: "I too am adding parts of myself to the pages: oils are leaking from the skin of my hands and molecules of fat are smearing themselves invisibly on its surface." Dudman also displays an astute gift for characterization. Wegener's complex relationship with his brother Kurt and his love for his wife, Else, as measured against his lust for meteorological expeditions, is expertly, often heartbreakingly portrayed. As the story leads inexorably toward Wegener's demise in the frozen tundra of Greenland, Dudman's control over her material becomes even more masterful. The emotional yet understated final scenes are particularly fine. Above all, Dudman shows us one incontrovertible truth about her Wegener: he loved the world, in all of its riotous complexity. Some may say the same of Dudman after reading this wise, beautiful novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.

From The New Yorker

In 1930, the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener disappeared on an expedition to Greenland; six months later, his body was found, perfectly preserved, beneath the ice. Dudman takes this as the starting point of her novel, a fictional autobiography in which Wegener embodies the scientist as man of action, launching hydrogen-balloon flights, spelunking down frozen crevasses, and racing across glaciers as the ice cracks. Between exploits, he investigates the origins of rain and the craters of the moon, and fends off attacks on his theory of continental drift—dismissed at the time as far-fetched but now widely accepted. As a narrator, Wegener is firmly rooted in his time, almost to a fault; occasionally, one wishes that the prose were less restrained and that the author had given her subject's life more of an arc. Still, Dudman artfully channels Wegener's voice—prim and fastidious, but filled with longing—so convincingly that her book reads like an artifact of Old World exploration.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143034731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143034735
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,987,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on August 27, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Clare Dudman's first novel for adults (she published a children's book in 1995) takes the form of a series of vignettes strung bead-like from the memory of her subject, German scientist Alfred Wegener (1880-1930). If Wegener's name isn't familiar to you it's because you don't have a geologist in your life: he is the father of modern plate tectonics. Though recognized today for his contributions, Wegener was derided during his lifetime for his theory of Continental Drift--that the earth's continents are not static but are constantly moving, and that their movement over billions of years can explain various geological and biological phenomena.

Channeling Wegener's voice, Dudman tells his story from childhood, through his days as a student, to adulthood, a full scientific and personal life that included the deaths of siblings, military service, marriage and children, repeated expeditions to the frozen reaches of Greenland, and ridicule at the hands of his scientific peers. Occasionally the older Wegener, the man telling the story, interjects to remark on his youthful pomposity, say, or to hint at future events. But for the most part one is allowed to lose oneself in the reading, which very often means finding yourself alongside Wegener on the Greenlandic ice, behind a sledge in minus 30 or 40 or 50 degrees, the white underfoot difficult to distinguish from the white above the horizon:

"I look no farther than the pony's hindquarters. To look any farther would be to see the bank of snow, appearing almost vertically in front of me. I don't want to see. I don't want to know. If I can just travel as far as the pony, if I can just do that. I look no farther. I celebrate each one of these small victories in silence, and then go on again.
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Format: Hardcover
Those who love to read stories about dangerous, arduous expeditions to extend knowledge in Arctic regions will find this book to be a fine addition to the literature. From the preface discussion of ice through to the ending chapter, you will feel yourself enduring the difficulties of the various explorers as they trek where no one had gone before and measure what had not been studied before.
Normally, I prefer to read nonfiction books about scientists but in this case Ms. Dudman's imaginative, sensitive writing makes the novelistic journey to understanding Wegener a rewarding one.
Today, German meteorologist Alfred Wegener is best known for putting together the first well documented hypothesis about continental drift. But even in that context he is not well known. His ideas were widely derided during his life by geologists who disliked his poaching into their territory without academic credentials. As a result, memories of him and his work had largely died out by the time that continental drift was proven in the 1960s through the use of research methods unavailable during Wegener's life.
But Wegener was a man of many modes. As a young man, he and his brother established a duration record for balloon flight, and he participated in three scientific studies in Greenland . . . heading the last one at age 49. He also made scientific contributions to our understanding of how rain is formed and that meteorites helped produce many of the craters on the moon.
I decided to read the book because I wanted to know more about his role in the continental drift hypothesis. That aspect of the book receives relatively little attention, and I came away little more informed than I was when I began except to know more about what his critics had to say at the time.
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Format: Hardcover
The physicist who gave this book three stars wants the book to be something it isn't. It's not trying to be a biography of Wegener. If Dudman wanted to write a biography of Wegener, she would have. As it stands, she has instead written a poetic, wonderfully idiosyncratic and moving portrait of a life, complete with stunning adventure and complex relationships. By eschewing a traditional plot, Dudman has freed up her story and characters to be both more real and more immediate. Amazing work. One of my favorite novels of the past few years, right up there with Edward Carey's Observatory Mansions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed this novel, based on the life of German scientist Alfred Wegener. It described pretty accurately how a scientist comes to develop a new idea by following wegener's theory of Continental Drift, the precursor to Plate Techtonics.
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Format: Hardcover
ONE DAY THE ICE is a poetic, fictionalized biography of early 20th century German scientist Alfred Wegener. As scientists go, Wegener is pretty obscure - I hadn't heard of him before reading this book. Trained in meteorology, Wegener made several grueling trips to arctic Greenland to conduct experiments. However, he did not limit his scientific curiosity to weather. His most important theory was continental drift, which was highly controversial at the time. The compelling need to defend his theory to skeptical geologists led to him leaving his family at age 49 for a final trip to Greenland.

Early on Dudman uses the analogy of beads on a string to describe memories and it's a very fitting analogy for the flow of the book. Written in first person, Wegener reminisces about his life - moving from one set of memories to another. Dudman captures everyday sweet and bittersweet moments of love, family and deep friendships; the driving force behind a scientific mind; the beautifully bleak and hostile landscape of Greenland; and the horrific chaos of war.

This is not a standard biography with comprehensive coverage of dates and names, and is also not a scientific discourse on continental drift and other theories. ONE DAY is instead an emotional portrait of a man driven to understand the workings of the world through science. Dudman does an excellent job of setting up the times and Wegener's narrative never rings false. At times I forgot that I was reading fiction because the style was so convincing.

Not a quick, easy read, but ultimately satisfying. This will mostly appeal to history/science buffs who want to peek into the mind of a early 1900s scientist.
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