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Scott of the Antarctic: A Biography Paperback – November 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Scott was undoubtedly courageous. He could not have been otherwise. On the other hand, his courage and drive to get to the South Pole was not exactly balanced by experience or perhaps by common sense. There's an old saying that if you wanted to get somewhere like the South Pole, Scott would have been a good leader to follow, but if you wanted to get back, then other expedition leaders like Shackleton would be your first choice. Shackleton's quotation: 'Better a live donkey than a dead lion.' Consistent with this, Scott got to the South Pole, Shackleton didn't. Scott didn't get back.
In this book, the author is clearly a deep admirer of Scott. And indeed he did great things. Coming from a humble beginning he appeared driven to accomplish things, and he did. He was a complicated man, and Mr. Crane's access to the family papers and Scott's letters give a view that is perhaps more balanced than what we have seen before.
If nothing else, Mr. Crane is an excellent writer and the story becomes one of those can't put down books.
Thankfully, the rest of the book, though opinionated, is not marred by such ill-founded judgments. Quite the literary stylist himself, Crane argues that Scott's saving grace was his ability to give voice to the suffering he and his men endured. In a sense, then--as was said of one of the characters in Macbeth--"Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it." Thus Crane presents a much more balanced portrait of Scott than Huntford does, and though Huntford's book has the detail and coverage of Amundsen that this one lacks, Huntford's savage tone really becomes off-putting after a while. If I were new to this topic, I would read Huntford, watch the magnificent production of The Last Place on Earth on DVD, and then read Crane's book.
Crane's maps could have been better done--my memory is that only one has a scale attached to it--but overall this is a beautifully-written, well-researched biography that is an indispensable read for those interested in the subject.
Sometimes this approach works, sometimes it doesn't. Through meticulous handling of evidence, he tells the story without a hint of strain, and yet sometimes whole paragraphs stop the action to argue that history has shafted Scott once again. A prototypical Englishman in the days when "God was an Englishman," Scott has suffered from unthinking backlhas, or so says Crane, and indeed he says it about four hundred times so that, frankly, I began to sympathize with Scott's attackers a bit, for no one's that perfect.
Indeed Crane admits as much, citing his rivalry with Shackleton and then finally with Amundsen as proof, but in each case, the other man is deeply at fault and Scott was just trying to muddle through on Naval smarts and years of experience leading men. It was a time for heroics, and something in the air (together with a thriving media culture) made heroes out of the most unlikely souls. England expected every man to do his duty, and alas so did Norway and Amundsen came home with the gold, so to speak, whereas the Englishmen after the same glittering prize were all dead by the time Amundsen returned home. "The Englishmen, the goal accompished," bleated the press, "lay quiet in the snows. Through the months since . . .Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having personally visited Antarctica in January 2014, I am able to appreciate the incredible bravery displayed and the massive hardships endured by Captain Scott and his comrades... Read morePublished on January 28, 2014 by Tom
Firstly, this book is not for people who have no prior knowledge or understanding of Antarctic exploration. Read morePublished on September 16, 2013 by Anura
I had hoped Scott of the Antarctic would be an exciting read, given the subject matter, but I was disappointed. Read morePublished on June 5, 2010 by Candor
This is a great "counter" to the Roland Huntford's The Last Place on Earth (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0375754741) which is unbalanced in its criticism of Scott. Read morePublished on April 12, 2009 by M. Griffith