To The Bright Edge of the World
By: Eowyn Ivey
# of pages: 417
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.
My opinion: Just after I finished this I changed my reading status on Goodreads. Giving the book 5 stars was a no brainer, but for the review, I simply wrote, “I loved it.” I couldn’t put into words how I felt about the book so soon after finishing. I still don’t think I can adequately describe how amazingly written the novel is and how I feel about the reading experience.
First of all, I kept feeling surprised that I was so interested in the book. In that way, it reminded me of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. You would think that reading about a man tromping around Alaska with a handful of other men and a woman staying at home in a small cabin would be boring. The book alternates between Allen and Sophie’s journal entries with a few other letters and entries by other characters in between. I was hanging on to every word. Even when nothing exciting was happening, the descriptions of events and the characters kept my attention.
I loved the characters. They were ahead of their time (1885), but it didn’t feel fake. Allen especially encounters racism and sexism, but isn’t judgmental of the racists while at the same time doesn’t hold the same views. Sophie also mentions disagreeing with others’ views of women and other races and doesn’t take a stand, but later is saddened by her silence. I think that’s very realistic and I sympathize. It’s how many people today behave and I believe that’s how many women who had no support would have behaved in the 1880s.
There were heartbreaking moments in the book, yet I was encouraged by the characters and the story. This felt so real. It had some basis in history, but this wasn’t a true story. The aspects of magical realism were often subtle. It all fit so well together.
Why I gave this book 5/5 stars: So many reasons. It was written so well, great realistic characters, uplifting even with the sad events, beautiful woven magical realism and history…
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link!