By: David Thomson
Paperback: 306 pages
Size (roughly): 5" x 7" x 1"
"Vivid...convincing...compelling, clear-eyed examination of Scott's actions and larger notions of what makes a hero." - Kirkus Reviews
Between the middle of January and the end of March 1912 five men died in the attempt to return from the South Pole to their base on the edge of Antarctica. Their leader, the last to die, and the man whose diary described their agonies was Robert Falcon Scott. The expedition had been beated to the Pole by a band of racing Norwegians, led by Roald Amundsen. The bodies of the last three to die were found seven months later and, ever since, Scott's men have been British heroes. It is that legend, as much as their ordeal that is the subject of this book. Scott's men and the supporting characters, Amundsen and Shackleton, his rivals; Clement Markham, his discoverer; his wife Kathleen - give a fascinating picture of English society before the First World War. The story of the drama becomes also an illustration of human and social character. And, to the extent that Scott is legendary in England, the book tells something about the English and their attitude to duty. The dying fall of old-fashioned exploration has never been so well evoked, or classical heroism so gently investigated.
Twenty-five years after its first publication, Thomson's myth-shattering chronicle of the Antarctic expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott is republished with a new title (it was originally called Scott's Men). The bibliography has been beefed up, and the author has incorporated a few references to discoveries made in the intervening years, but basically it's the same book. That's not a bad thing in this case. The long out-of-print original is just as eye-opening a book now as it was a quarter century ago. Thomson, a noted film critic and historian, reveals that Scott, who emerged from his disastrous 1901-04 expedition to the South Pole as an international hero, was not quite as heroic as he was made out to be. Similarly, Thomson looks behind the myth of Scott's rival Roald Amundsen and finds an explorer whose "lust for popular glory" led him to take unwarranted risks. Finally, Thomson reveals that friction between Scott and Ernest Shackleton led to Shackleton's own ill-fated (and recently much chronicled)polar adventures. Buy this if you don't have, or need to replace, Scott's Men. David Pitt, American Library Association.
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