North to the night : a year in the Arctic ice / Alvah Simon.
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 September 1998
Taking leave of humanity, Simon purposely wintered in the Canadian Arctic in 1994^-95. His abode was unusual: a sailboat. He and his wife sailed to Bylot Island, intent on encountering the life of the Inuit and the wildlife of their land. Simon fills his account with conversations with visitors to his boat and observations of polar bears; but such apparitions from the perpetual northern night are brief reliefs from his month-long isolation during the deepest period of winter. When his wife is evacuated to attend her sick father, Simon describes his mental state, telling of Arctic explorers who've gone crazy and expounding on humanity and the environment. After the latter declamations, the reader is as anxious for the ice break-up as Simon is. In the spring, though, his wife returns and so does activity: she nearly drowns, their boat nearly sinks, and then it narrowly escapes entrapment in packed ice. A capably told tale of coping with cold, supported by 50 photos of Simon's campsite. ((Reviewed September 1, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
LJ Reviews 1998 July #1
With no winter daylight and temperatures as low as 60 degrees below zero, Bylot Island in Canada's Northwest Territories, across Baffin Bay from northern Greenland, seems an unlikely place to spend the winter, especially alone in a small boat frozen in the ice. Simon, a wandering American with many nautical miles behind him, and his wife, Diana, a well-traveled New Zealander, planned to share the experience. But when her father's illness called Diana home, Simon stayed on alone with only a cat and occasional curious wildlife for companionship. Reading about so much darkness and ice and the hardship and introspection brought about by them sounds grueling, but Simon can write. When not sharing his inner reflections, he provides interesting observations about the Inuits of the region. The experience, combined with Simon's fine narrative, makes this book a good choice for larger public library travel collections. Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews
PW Reviews 1998 August #2
In the summer of 1992, Simon and his wife, both experienced adventurers, set off in a 36-foot sailboat, the Roger Henry, toward northern Canada to spend a year above the Arctic Circle. In his survival memoir, Simon recounts the physical and psychological demands of the Arctic with an almost sheepish bravado; his capacity to discuss the beauty of the landscape, the culture of the Inuit and the protean nature of glacial ice is matched only by a reckless drive to make his journey more "authentic" by taking unnecessary, and often life-endangering, risks. This juxtaposition makes for gripping reading, particularly when Simon is left alone to face the sunless, sub-zero winter months of "lifesucking cold" after his wife is called away to be with her dying father. Yet the author's account is often frustratingly lacking in introspection. Running low on fuel as the cold and darkness press in on him, Simon, in harrowing solitude from November to March, might have paused to offer some self-reflection on the mixed motives of the contemporary survivalist-adventurer a dilemma discussed in much greater depth in John Krakauer's Into the Wild, for example. Instead, Simon delivers the tropes we have come to expect from this genre (humility in the face of nature, an unfocused critique of "civilization," the romanticization of native cultures), none of which are made more convincing in light of his daredevil behavior and steel-sided ship. Some readers may be troubled by the absence of a reason for this adventure, other than to flirt with death. Editor, Jon Eaton; rights, McGraw-Hill. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews