Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2005
Source: Library Physical Copy
Content warning: starvation, frostbite, medical procedures, microaggressions
Taking a break from Northwest Passage research, I wanted to venture a few decades later to read other tales of exploration. This book, in that regards, is a treasure. Almost told in dual-POV between Americans Peary and Cook, we watch the way these two men’s lives intersected. They both wanted to reach true north, not magnetic north as had been established on prior voyages.
Epic in its telling and scope, True North depicts what should have been a friendship turned into a bitter rivalry in expeditions taking place in the most remote places on Earth.
The content here is very evenly split between talking about Cook and talking about Peary. Henderson had a knack for keeping his perspective and opinions close to his chest. I enjoyed putting together my own opinions of who truly had reached the North Pole. Both men had their strengths and weaknesses, where one is clearly more of a jerk than the other. I’m not going to spoil any of the details but Henderson spares no details about either’s personal lives in addition to their prowess as explorers.
The immersion in the narrative paid some attention to the logistics of making it north, but also the absurdity of going so far north. Both Peary and Cook had their own relationships with the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, with vastly different outcomes. Henderson depicts both without judgment, but there emerges a sense of who had the more respectful disposition. The sociology explored resonates with attitudes reminiscent of prior exploration, with the added perspective granted from the passage of time. It’s an interesting read from that perspective, though the assignation of pro- and antagonist quickly comes to light. But Henderson doesn’t make the assignment, which makes for a more engaging read.
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