As the first woman to ski unsupported to the South Pole--and solo, no less--Liv Arnesen has an incredible story to share. In full-blown spite of all of the gendered expectations for what her adult life and priorities should look like, ideas that men can indulge in this type of "glorified tourism" but women should be more "sensible," and many, many instances of sponsors, emergency services, and just random men doubting she could complete anything close to her stated goal, Arneson eschews all of these burdensome social constructs to achieve some very grand goals. She also led the first unsupported female expedition across the Greenland ice cap, was the first woman to ski across all of Antarctica, and even made a very respectable push to the summit of Everest. While this book was originally written in 1996 and only recently translated to English, it holds a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for contemporary audiences.
The trip itself is painted in broad strokes, but ones that create a tremendously impressive picture of self-determination. When Arnesen sets her mind to something, she really goes for it and doesn't let anything get in her way. From a police chief firmly demanding she turn back in Greenland (with the police in the previous town telling her to continue moving forward under no circumstances because they had no ability to rescue her if she turned back), to her equipment getting delayed in Chile for a holiday, to most of her sponsors dropping her on a dime when another South Pole expedition had a fatality, Arnesen always kept moving forward.
Personally, I would have appreciated more detail in the biographical sketches she included and more incorporation of the experiences of other polar explorers (as included as a postscript, and easy to miss). This seemed like a pretty high-level overview of the expedition, and I just would have liked to see some more detail in places because it was so fascinating! An experience I certainly know I'll never be able to have. If you love a good adventure story, this one's for you!
My sincere appreciation to NetGalley and University of Minnesota Press for the eARC.
I wanted to like this book! I tried! I did find it educational and that part is a great thing!
However, there were a couple obstacles standing in my way. First of all, I feel like the author keeps the reader at arms length. She does not go into much of her personal feelings or emotions, but this was the part that was most intriguing to me about the whole concept of the book.
Additionally, I do feel like the translation gave it even more of a “wall” so to speak. Something was lost in translation. To me, this almost read like a manual rather than a memoir.
Thank you to #Netgalley for my advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. My reviews are posted on goodreads, Netgalley and facebook.
Liv Arnesen was the first woman to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole. This is her book.
Frankly, she makes it sound a bit easy! I'm not sure if it's just her style or our cultural differences but there doesn't seem to be much emotion in her book. Not that I expect her to be emotional because she's a woman, but that it's quite an emotional experience.
I think part of this comes from her being a very private person - she mentions it in the book - there's almost an uncomfortableness to the book, like she's trying very hard to keep as much of her private inner life from the reader. That's absolutely her right, but that's also probably the bit that most people want to read about.
A fascinating book by a fascinating woman. (This rating is probably more like 3.5 stars, but I rounded up since halves aren't possible).
One lone woman on two skis pulling one 250 pound sled trekked 745 miles, for 50 days, with no support to reach the South Pole. Liv encountered bitter winds, subzero temperatures (REALLY sub-zero) and deadly crevasse crossings and miles and miles of sastrugi....complex, fragile shapes of snow on top of sea ice that resemble sand dunes. Liv is the epitome of "stærke norske kvinder" (strong Norwegian woman) and I respect her for knowing she could do this and making it happen.
In reading this book you will also learn bits about other expeditions and explorers and some about Liv's life, but the majority is about this solo expedition to the South Pole, which is appropriate. The book is a quick read at 200 pages total. At 81 % in you have the acknowledgments, metric conversions, expedition log, menu, equipment list and then tales of previous South Pole explorers expeditions: dating back to 1901.. If you aren't interested in the list of food and equipment it is worth skipping ahead to the "Explorers to the South Pole" chapter as this last chapter is worth reading .