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📚 Not a Book Review - To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

"Alaska, 1885. Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska's hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part."

Inspired by the real-life journey into Alaska led by Lieutenant Henty T. Allen in 1885, Eowyn Ivey’s second novel To The Bright Edge of the World is different to her first, The Snow Child. It is grander. Darker. More adventurous. It is, however, just as beautiful.

I first fell in love with tales of the American frontier and wilderness when I was 11, watching The Last of the Mohicans at the cinema. To this day it remains my favourite film. To the Bright Edge of the World tapped into the same parts of me that loved that film – there was the same sense of a wild and dangerous frontier landscape, of hardship and exploration, of bravery and loss and redemption. There was an epic journey through difficult mountainous terrain. There was a luminous love story. There were also canoes.

Like The Snow Child, there are strands of magic and mystery, though this time they are darker and more primeval. Men and women turn into birds and animals. Strange fogs deliver beautiful women, and terrifying, otherworldly storms ravage lonely mountains. The reader walks always between logic and magic, one step in myth, the other in reality, as though the fabric separating the two might be easily pulled away, revealing a world of mysticism and superstition.

To the Bright Edge of the World blew a cold breath into my heart. The landscape – its wildness and its history and its beauty – intrigued me; as I read I felt the relentless pull that urged the Colonel and his men northwards into unexplored territory. Gladly I went with them, drawn on by a combination of curiosity, fear and dread, turning the pages faster as they raced against weather, starvation and harsh conditions. Eager, like Sophie, to see such grand wilderness.

Have you read it? Did you enjoy it?


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