A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter was my favorite read of 2016. I wrote about it on my blog, Books Can Save a Life:
A Woman in the Polar Night is an astounding memoir by Austrian artist Christiane Ritter who, in 1933, joined her scientist and hunter-trapper husband, Hermann, on the remote island of Spitsbergen 400 miles off the coast of Norway.
If you love memoirs of travel, adventure and, especially, nature, I highly recommend A Woman in the Polar Night. This is an extraordinary book written in poetic, painterly prose by a woman with a fearless spirit who was profoundly moved and changed by her year in the Arctic.
Christiane writes brilliantly about the beauty of Spitsbergen and also its terror. She thrived on Spitsbergen, but during both the darkest and the brightest stretches of her polar immersion she approached the edges of madness. As anyone might.
She writes of a terrifying two weeks spent alone in a fierce snowstorm. The hut was buried completely except for the stovepipe attached to the roof. Christiane’s husband and their companion, Karl, had gone on a hunting trip, and she was left alone with the darkness, snow, and raging wind.
She survived the storm and isolation. But when a full moon finally broke the long darkness, Christiane became moonstruck:
It is full moon. No European can have any idea of what this means on the smooth frozen surface of the earth. It is as though we were dissolving in moonlight…. One’s entire consciousness is penetrated by the brightness; it is as though we were being drawn into the moon itself…..
Neither the walls of the hut nor the roof of snow can dispel my fancy that I am moonlight myself.
–-Reviewed by Valorie Grace Hallinan, whose “favorite indie bookstore is Browsers Bookshop in Olympia” because it “is delightful, with a passionate and committed owner.” Her favorite fiction read of 2016? 2017 PNBA Award Winner To the Bright Edge of the World. You can read about Valorie’s favorites here, on her blog.
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