The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Set in the early days of polar exploration, Under A Pole Star is the story of Flora, the a celebrated female explorer and of Jacob de Beyn, an American geologist with whom she has a relationship. Like The Tenderness Of Wolves, this novel is a celebration of frozen wilderness and of solitude.
It is also a detailed depiction of the difficulties encountered by women, however determined resourceful and brave, in making their way against the fiercely competitive masculine culture of early and mid twentieth century exploration.
As compelling as Penney's evocation of the natural world is her exploration of the territory of passion, a landscape at first less familiar to Flora than the frozen north which has presided over her childhood.
The love affair between Flora and Jacob ignites when their rival expeditions are thrown together. Thereafter, all its twists and turns, celebrations and misunderstandings are as carefully and bravely examined as the ice-bound coastline the explorers have set out to map.
This is a novel about survival – physical survival and the survival of passion. Out of the hostile arctic landscape Penney creates a theatre of endurance and against this backdrop her characters play out an intense and murderous drama of ambition, love and loss.