Prisoners of the North
It was like eating a five course meal, each course fulfilling and complete. If you enjoy Arctic adventure, historic figures that are larger than life, and good writing, you will certainly enjoy this book.
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Oct 17, Lily rated it really liked it. As a Canadian, I feel you are obligated at some point to read a book by Pierre Berton, a wildly popular Canadian historian. This is the first book of his that I've read, and the last one that he wrote.
I feel like you can kind of tell that this book was Pierre Berton's last book, because I found the unifying As a Canadian, I feel you are obligated at some point to read a book by Pierre Berton, a wildly popular Canadian historian. I feel like you can kind of tell that this book was Pierre Berton's last book, because I found the unifying thesis of these five people all being "prisoners of the north" to be a bit tenuous.
I enjoyed the first three biographies--all are undeniably fascinating people, with incredible drive--but this book really got bumped up a star for me when I hit the biographies of John Hornby and Robert Service.
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I had never heard of Hornby before, but I found myself choking on his hubris; his tendency to exaggerate his own abilities and to charm less experienced would-be explorers into ultimately deadly situations was rage-inducing. Robert Service's biography was the perfect end to the book. A former bank teller, he lived an almost Clark Kent-like life, pursuing a career as a mild-mannered small-town banker, while ultimately writing the verse that would turn him into famous poet.
A good book overall, that finishes strong. I enjoyed this book. It's amazing the hardships and deprivation the characters suffered because they were driven to satisfy a keen sense of exploration and lust for discovery. In Robert Service it was a determination to reject conventionality and a restless need to explore other lifestyles. Lady Jane Franklin was fortunate to have resources to fight long and hard to have her husband publicly rewarded for his discovery.
The author, having been raised in the Yukon, understands the appeal this and I enjoyed this book. The author, having been raised in the Yukon, understands the appeal this and similar arctic territory had for these adventurers. Mar 03, Chris Tschirhart rated it it was amazing. I very much enjoyed this book. The five stories that are told are about five characters in Canadian History that I knew nothing about. For me the book was a good read. You can pick and chose the stories in any order as they interest you.
I understand that this is Pierre's last book and if that is true it is a nice cap to a long and distinguished literary career! May 05, Pam rated it really liked it.
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Five of the most fascinating characters whose lives are unmatched. Clearly Berton loved Service most as his prose shows his passion for this poet. Such bravado and daring! Makes me want to go north. Way north. May 03, Spencer Crockford rated it liked it. The stories that I enjoyed would probably get a 5, but one or two of them I was not really interested in.
It's still a good concept for a book, and as always Pierre just does a fantastic job of putting the story together. I only read the chapter on John Hornby. What an eccentric he was! Sep 11, Josh Gaudreau rated it liked it. Not one of Berton's best, but I always enjoy his writing style. Crazy what some people will do!
Five short biographies of five interesting characters, all unable to escape from the North, regardless of where they went. Klondike Joe Boyle built the biggest gold dredging barges in the world but got bored.
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In an unofficial Canadian army uniform he headed into Eastern Europe during the Great War, playing several roles in the Russian Revolution and becoming the lover of the Queen of Romania. Vilhjalmur Stefansson explored a great deal of the up-to-then unexplored Canadian Arctic but his search f Five short biographies of five interesting characters, all unable to escape from the North, regardless of where they went. Vilhjalmur Stefansson explored a great deal of the up-to-then unexplored Canadian Arctic but his search for blonde Eskimos and loss of a research ship damaged his reputation.
Lady Jane Franklin was determined to discover the fate of her husband's lost expedition and enshrine him as the discoverer of the NW Passage, even if she had to take on the British Navy and eventually do it herself. John Hornby was an eccentric hermit who claimed the tundra as his own and spent his life wandering it but with two companions finally starved to death on the Thelon river because he refused to use common sense in his preparations.
He left the North in and spent the rest of his life in France but was always known as the "Bard of the Yukon". Burton is a historian in the same way that Service is a poet. Sometimes panned by those who consider themselves "real", historians or poets, they wrote for their public. Burton brought Canadian history and Canadian characters to life for which we owe him a debt of gratitude.
A suprisingly good read. I picked up this book for the chapter on Lady Jane Franklin after having just finished the fictional account of her husband's lost voyage in The Terror A Novel by Dan Simmons. While I enjoyed getting the actual facts of John Franklin's tribulations searching for her husband, I actually enjoyed all five of the in-depth profiles of these figures whose lives were all deeply touched by events or experiences related to the far Northern reaches of Canada. Even as it is, we cannot venture to do more than draw attention to the general outlines of the ghastly picture.
MOTT and five other gentlemen of the same social standing to act in the character of Commissioners for ascertaining the actual facts as to the condition of prisoners held in military durance both South and North.
We need not say that the investigation was at once formal, searching and unprejudiced. The members of the Commission included men of opposite political opinions. But apart from this, their personal character placed them so far beyond suspicion, that among men of intelligence, whether in Europe or America, their word would not be called in question. After four months of patient investigation, then, during which they took a vast mass of evidence under oath from Northern and Southern prisoners of war, these Commissioners come to the solemn conclusion, that during their captivity in the military prisons of the South, the great mass of our loyal soldiers "were hungry day and night, and suffered the pangs of famine with its dreams and delusions;" that they became weak and emaciated to a degree too horrible for description; that they were poisoned by foul air and overcrowding; that they were exposed to the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter, without covering; and that "thousands of them became hideously diseased, and most of them miserably perished.
The Commissioners examined with singular care and in a spirit of the utmost charity, into the question whether the necessities of the military government at Richmond compelled the horrible usages which caused these sufferings. On this point the evidence is ample and decisive.
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