This was the moment, after her twenty patient years, after her cheerful mothering, after her steadfast support, that he’d remember the adventurous woman he’d married, and the promise he’d made her. She took a deep breath, drawing in air to the bottom of her lungs, and tried to imagine an even deeper cold.
‘I suppose we’ll go on Norvegia?’ she asked.
‘Hjalmar said Norvegia tossed like a tin toy in the storms last year,’ Lars said. ‘I don’t want to take any risks. I’ll go on Thorshavn.’
It took a moment for his use of the singular to sink in. ‘You couldn’t go without me,’ she said.
Ingrid Christensen has always longed to visit Antarctica, but her husband Lars, a Norwegian whaling magnate, is reluctant to take her, until he realises that she could be the first woman to set foot there, a great honour for both of them, and for Norway. Soon Ingrid is finally southward bound, but she is not the only woman on board. Her travelling companion is Mathilde Wegger, a grieving widow who has been forced onto the trip by her scheming in-laws. The third woman is Lillemor Rachlew, a photographer who has cheated to get on-board and is determined to beat both of the others as the first woman to land on the frozen continent.
The three women could be friends, but they are very different, and they are competing for more than the honour of being first to land in Antarctica.They must also face the dangers of their journey, the horrors of seeing whaling enterprises for themselves, and the vagaries of the weather and of fate.
Chasing the Light is a fascinating tale based on the story of the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Whilst a wonderful insight into the lives and times of the women who first ventured to Antarctica, it is also a marvellous study of human relationships and the lengths people will go to to meet their personal goals, as well as the ways those dreams can be shaped and altered by life experience and changed perspectives. The three women are as different as they are each in their own way determined, and readers will find each alternately endearing and frustrating. The twists and turns of their journey are fascinating and the outcome unexpected.
Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica, by Jesse Blackadder
Fourth Estate, 2013
Available from good bookstores or here.