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South with the Sun: Roald Amundsen, His Polar Explorations, and the Quest for Discovery Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 13, 2011

2.8 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Knopf hardcover, 2011, Previous ISBN 978-0-307-59340-5
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

“This book is as autobiographical as it is biographical . . . a book that juxtaposes two adventurers, one with her own challenges still unfolding and the other with his position fixed in history . . . a book worthy of the centenary celebration of Amundsen’s trek to the South Pole.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Today the North and South Poles are home to research stations and film crews, but just a century ago they were forbidding lands seldom seen by human eyes. Those who journeyed there were the last true explorers, and one of the most successful ever was Roald Amundsen. Known as “the last of the Vikings,” the Norwegian-born Amundsen began his career of adventure at age fifteen and by forty had become the first man to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage, and to reach both the North and South Poles.

As a girl, Lynne Cox read of Amundsen’s exploits, which inspired her to follow her own adventurous dreams of open-water swimming. Here, she gives an account of Amundsen’s life and expeditions while detailing her own experiences swimming (without a wetsuit) in the same polar regions he first explored. At once a biography, history, and memoir, South with the Sun holds something for any lover of adventure.

“Not to miss . . . It's fascinating to read about the Norwegian hardman through the eyes of Cox.”—Outside

[AU photo] LYNNE COX has set records all over the world for open-water swimming. She is the author of Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson and lives in Los Alamitos, California.


--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593405
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,093,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on August 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This, by title and marketing purports to be a biography Amundsen - has a photo of him at the South Pole on the cover, so on so forth. I find Amundsen a fascinating and admirable figure and have read a number of works by and about him. I looked forward to seeing if something new might have, well, something new to say. Not so much. In fact, Amundsen is little more here than a framing device for the author Cox's own story of traveling around the word, following Amundsen's voyages, and swimming a lot in interesting places that the rather pedestrian prose renders pedestrian.

Cox, previously unknown to me, certainly seems an interesting person who has performed some remarkable feats of swimming in extreme, and often dangerous locations and conditions. She seems to have a gregarious nature, a curious and roving intellect, and a taste for adventure that she follows where it leads. But I wasn't expecting a book about her, with Amundsen as a vague, out of focus supporting character who serves as a sort of fuzzy inspiration and cypher for Cox's often fuzzy ruminations of discovery, exploration and, I guess, swimming in very cold water. In fact, it is kind of hard to say what the book is really about. Cox jumps back and forth in time, digresses to little purpose, and simply could have used an editor (or sterner one in any case).

Cox's own story is not without interest, but not the story one is led to believe is inside these pages. If you are interested in Amundsen or polar exploration in general, this will be of no use to you at all. Start with Hanford's books on Amundsen, or the man's own writings (he wrote better than Cox in any case). And there are numerous books about polar explorers and explorations that are actually about polar explorers and explorations. Use the Amazon search. You shall be rewarded. But not so much here.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was expecting "South of the Sun" to be a biography of Roald Amundsen and a look at his exploring career. While there are hints of that in this book, what we have instead of a biography is an account of Lynne Cox's attempts to follow Amundsen and her adventures and mishaps. Cox is an interesting woman. She is a long-distance open water swimmer. This book should have been advertised as autobiographical. It wasn't. Instead of learning about Amundsen, the reader will be forced to digest scores of pages of how Cox attempted to get a ride with the U.S. Air Force to Antarctica. There are practitioners of new journalism who can feature themselves in the story--Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson come to mind. But Cox is nowhere near that ballpark as a writer. As interesting as she is, readers will pick up a book about Roald Amundsen to learn about....Roald Amundsen, not Lynne Cox. While not quite a disaster, "South With the Sun" was disappointing and left a poor taste in my mouth.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One would think that a book that included

... Artic swims for over 20 minutes in 28.8 degree water
... Information about the man who first reached the South Pole
... Flight and artic/antartic exploration

would be an easy three star book. And with a bit of work, a four star book.

Unfortunately, the book reads like a collection of notes taken from a limited number of sources and experiences, thrown together with very little structure and coherence. The book attempts to overlay the writer's experience swimming in places where Amundsen traveled with the actual story (and the story leading up to) of Amundsen's explorations. Many authors can pull this off, but it takes careful planning and excellent execution in writing the book. The author failed across the board in this regard.

The material on the historical cold weather explorers reads as if the author summarized excerpts from Wikipedia. And to make it interesting, used limited information from published works from the explorers themselves. The net result was a choppy narrative with a rare combination of long flowery sentences describing people's features and scenes and short blunt sentences that really read like the author never bothered to work the material.

The writing was really a roadblock to enjoyment of this book that contained material that had the possibility of being charming and personal. Because the structure of the book was so ill-advised, it made it difficult to really understand the writer's progression through the events. For example, the author spends a great deal of the book telling about her desire to follow in Amundsen's path etc..
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
South With The Sun is more a tale of the author's fascination with Roald Amundsen and Polar Exploration, and how his life influenced her own quest to break boundaries, than a biography of Amundsen. Viewed from that perspective it works well although all the talk of Amundsen took me away from author's own story. Viewed as a biography of Amundsen it seems disjointed because there is so much in it about the author.

The book talks about how the author's fascination with Amundsen led her to open water swimming off Greenland and Antarctica and changed her life. The book follows a pattern of talking about Amundsen's journey and then the author's own life journey and showing how they are interrelated.

The author sees herself as an explorer of sorts who is breaking boundaries and sees in Amundsen a connection with herself. As she mentions in the preface, Amundsen's life helped her be an explorer, " I needed to know this because the things I had done, the things I was doing, had never been done before, and I knew I needed to look toward others to see how they found their way across uncharted waters, unexplored continents, unknown skies."

I felt the author's love of Amundsen and her love of pushing boundaries. This is so genuine. If the book had been presented as a biography of Lynne Cox whose life was greatly influenced by Amundsen I think it would have worked much better. If it was a true biography of Amundsen it would have worked better. Having it be a little of both limits its' effectiveness.

I am glad I read this book. I just think it could had been better for the reasons I mentioned above.
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