Review 1344: Minds of Winter

Cover for Minds of WinterBest Book!
By coincidence, Fay Morgan, who has traveled to Tuktoyaktuk, within the Arctic Circle, to track down information about her missing grandfather, meets Nelson, a man whose brother Bert has also disappeared. Fay’s search has been jump-started by the discovery of an old chronometer disguised as a carriage clock. This instrument was carried into the Arctic by Commander Crozier, a member of Franklin’s ill-fated expedition of 1845. Fay remembers the clock, however, in her grandmother’s house when she was a child. Oddly, Bert Nilsson, Nelson’s brother, was investigating the disappearance of his own great-uncle, whose tracks seem to intersect with those of Hugh Morgan, Fay’s grandfather.

Mixed in with the story of Fay’s investigations is the track of the chronometer, beginning in 1841 in Van Diemen’s Land, to which the ships Terror and Erebus are lately returned from Captain Ross’s exploration of the Antarctic. They will be going to the Arctic in Sir John Franklin’s search for a Northwest Passage. With him goes Commander Crozier.

This is an absolutely riveting book, following the course of a series of polar explorations up through the years to post-World War II, and finally to the present with Fay’s search. This novel does not so much document their physical hardships but explore the state of mind that leads men to return to these harsh regions again and again. It also follows the mystery of the chronometer. What path brought it back to England after it disappeared into the Arctic? What happened to Commander Crozier, last seen traveling with an old one, a race of men known by the Inuit to have been there longer than they?

O’Loughlin has done a beautiful job of intermingling history and fiction, reality and mysticism to write this novel, an exploration in itself. This novel is wondrous.

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12 thoughts on “Review 1344: Minds of Winter

  1. Carmen April 29, 2019 / 1:05 pm

    I agree with your assessment. This is a remarkable novel.

      • Carmen April 29, 2019 / 4:04 pm

        I hate to do this on your site since I don’t tend to discuss endings for fear of giving away too many spoilers, which I tend to give away quite a few of, but you are the only blogger I know who has read the book and I was extremely puzzled by the ending. Were the modern day characters at the far end of the world real or imagined?

      • whatmeread April 29, 2019 / 4:49 pm

        Well, I’m not sure what you mean? Do you mean did the characters imagine them? That didn’t occur to me. It’s fiction, so most of the characters are imagined.

  2. Carmen April 29, 2019 / 5:02 pm

    I know it’s fiction, so let me explain. The story ended like either Fay and Nelson vanished into thin air, or they never existed at all in first place; at least that’s what I concluded, because it was very open-ended.

    • whatmeread April 29, 2019 / 5:48 pm

      I didn’t think they never existed.

  3. Naomi May 1, 2019 / 12:22 pm

    I’m so happy you liked this! I thought it was great, but I had the impression that many readers found it too long and/or confusing.

    • whatmeread May 1, 2019 / 12:34 pm

      Oh, no. It was one of the few books I gave five stars on Goodreads!

      • Naomi May 1, 2019 / 1:17 pm

        I noticed that! 🙂

  4. Cynthia C January 31, 2020 / 8:07 am

    This is a pretty high recommendation. I’m adding this one to my list!

    • whatmeread January 31, 2020 / 11:12 am

      I was surprised by how much I liked it (especially when you consider I got it for the cover).

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