by Nancy Campbell
I opted to slip Nancy Campbell’s memoir cum scientific and social history of ice into my backpack when taking a cruise from Liverpool to the Norwegian Fjords. Absurdly, my journey commenced in mid-July when there was more chance of sighting ice in the chef’s lemon sorbet than through the porthole in my cabin (although, there were smudges of snow visible on the distant mountain tops), however, I felt compelled to read something vaguely Nordic while touring the region.
As it happened, I was immensely pleased with my choice. The Library of Ice: Readings from a Cold Climate follows the author over a seven-year-period as she travels from the world’s northernmost open-air museum at Upernavik in Greenland to Oxford’s Bodleian Library, scooting off at various points to visit a variety of chilly places such as Iceland and Antarctica. Thankfully the freakish heatwave affecting parts of Scandinavia at the time of my trip did not in the least spoil my pleasure in this insightful book. In fact, it absorbed me completely during the long days at sea.
Campbell scrutinizes her subject from the perspective of a writer. In her quest to record the effects of climate change on harsh but stunning environments she is drawn into the lives of the people she meets, developing an intense fascination with their beliefs and traditions. Her enthusiasm is contagious and left me hankering to visit some of the locations she so vividly describes.
The Library of Ice is an enchanting though objective account of the author’s icy wanderings, from remote Arctic settlements to dusty archives containing histories of doomed polar expeditions. It’s intriguing, poetic in parts, and the perfect book to accompany one on a voyage to the land of Trolls, Vikings and the midnight sun.
Many thanks to Simon and Schuster UK Fiction for providing an advance review copy of this title.