Set again in the Alaskan landscape that she bought to stunningly vivid life in The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey’s second novel is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret.
Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.
For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.
A story shot through with a darker but potent strand of the magic that illuminated The Snow Child, and with the sweep and insight that characterizes Rose Tremain’s The Colour, this novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey singles her out as a major literary talent
Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, “The Snow Child” captivated me, so when I had the opportunity to buy her second offering, “To the Bright Edge of the World”, I did so with great enthusiasm and anticipation. I was not disappointed!
The story of Colonel Allen Forrester’s exploration of the Alaskan interior, following the course of the Wolverine River, is an exciting and intense tale of wonder, exhilaration and extreme hardship. The author brings the spectacular and treacherous landscape to life and offers insights into the lives and traditions of the native tribes of the region.
Hand in hand with the story of the Colonel and his small, intrepid group, is the heart rending account of Sophie Forrester’s months without her husband’s company. She is prevented from taking any part in the expedition and has to remain in the Vancouver Barracks, often without knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts and wellbeing. During this time, which brings her much heart ache, she shows us what a brave and resilient woman she is, as she develops an interest in the fairly new art of photography.
There is another aspect of the novel, which is right up to date. An ancestor of the Forresters wishes to donate the manuscripts left by Allen and Sophie Forrester to an Alaskan museum. This story is told through a series of letters between Walter Forrester and Joshua Sloan, the curator of the museum.
In fact, the whole book consists of diary entries, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs. This was a style of storytelling that I found very effective. The Forresters came to life in their words and I found myself caring deeply about them. Even the more minor characters were real to me. This is style that Eowyn Ivey absolutely owned!
There is a mystical, supernatural aspect to the novel that I found intriguing. As Colonel Forrester and his team ventured into the interior, they came across some strange “happenings”. These were based on the myths and beliefs of the natives, developed to help them understand their environment. So, we are to ask: Were the “happenings” real? Or did the explorers superimpose the myths that they had heard onto their own experiences? Whatever, the novel was enhanced by their inclusion.
I thought this was a wonderful book and it is one that I will treasure. Thank you, Eowyn Ivey!
Meet the Author:
Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, “The Snow Child”, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller. Her newest novel “To the Bright Edge of the World” will be released August 2, 2016. Eowyn was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters.