Written by: Joanna Grochowicz
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by: Kerry Lee
Joanna Grochowicz has made quite a name for herself as a writer of what is sometimes called the golden age of Antarctic exploration. Her books give us a closer look into that time, when men risked it all to explore what is still one of the most desolate continents on Earth.
Shackleton’s Endurance tells the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated voyage to the Antarctic in 1914. When disaster strikes, though, and his ship becomes stuck in the ice, his journey soon becomes a matter of life and death with the odds stacked against him and his crew.
It’s a harrowing tale, and one made even more compelling by the fact that it all actually happened. Grochowicz, who has made the genre of ‘fictional history’ her forte, has really outdone herself and her skills are on full display here.
I say fictional history because while Shackleton’s adventures were completely factual, his and his men’s interactions would have to be based on second-hand accounts from various sources, such as crew journal entries that survived their adventures.
I loved the characters and how well fleshed out they were; thus, they felt real to me, and I found myself feeling for them as they struggled to find their way out of what must have seemed like hell on Earth.
One of the best parts of the book is Shackleton himself. Unlike Roald Amundsen (the star of her previous book, Amundsen’s Way), who seemed stern and domineering, Sir Ernest comes off as a kind and compassionate man who always put the welfare of his crew first. This makes him a more relatable protagonist than Amundsen ever was.
History can sometimes feel boring, and because it happened some 107 years ago, many people find themselves disassociated from it. Grochowicz makes it all come alive on the page, and the results are spectacular. Shackleton’s Endurance is a thrilling ride and one I highly recommend picking up.