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Stowaway on the Endurance with Ernest Shackleton on an adventure to the South Pole; what could possibly go wrong?

Following the loss of his ship to the rocks of South America Perce Blackbarrow, along with his friend and shipmate Billy try to gain employment on the Endurance, sadly only Billy makes the cut. Perce, in search of adventure, stows away on the Endurance safe in the knowledge that Shackleton couldn’t possibly abandon him in the middle of the Antarctic. It turns out, Shackleton wouldn’t abandon anyone in the middle of the Antarctic.

For anyone that doesn’t know, (and this doesn’t count as a spoiler), the story of The Endurance is one of the greatest survival stories in the history of exploration. Having been stuck in the pack ice; having his ship destroyed; stuck on a remote, lifeless island; battling sub-zero temperatures; crossing uncharted mountains; and mounting 4 rescue attempts, Ernest Shackleton managed to return every man on his expedition safely back home. Cold, hungry, battered, and bruised; but alive.

This book is a young adult novel, but it is so well written that it is easily enjoyable by those of us slightly over its target age. The odd line, the odd paragraph here and there give it away, but those are few and far between. The book is based on true events, and hopefully the original plan for the novel was to educate and inspire young adults into learning more about the heroic Ernest Shackleton.

Shackleton’s Stowaway is moving and heartfelt. I really got the sense of isolation that Perce suffered in the least hospitable region on the planet and I felt his joy when he made it home after 2 years stuck on the ice. If this was adult fiction I’m sure his story would have been a little more harrowing, and probably a lot more realistic to the suffering of these men, but you definitely get the sense that it was no walk in the park. The book cleverly balances the gory details and the more light-hearted elements so as not to outweigh each other thus detracting from the miracle at the heart of the story without either being too extreme. You learn a lot about a few of the men on the fateful expedition; sadly not every man could have a staring roll, but this is a fiction story and not an historic account and some of the men simply didn’t fit into the story.

There are only so many ways to explain being stuck on ice, but this book never gets boring. It could have easily been a “day 1: ice, day 2: ice, day 3: more ice” sort of read, but it never feels repetitive. The book probably won’t win any prizes for adult fiction, but then some of the books that do are terrible, so that’s hardly a mark of any significance.

Read this book and get inspired. Inspired to do what is up to you, but what ever it is you do, never give up!

* * * O O – 3 out of 5.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Vicotria McKernon is out now in paperback. I read it on Kindle but it is available in many forms. Then watch a documentary on Shackleton; he was a god among men.

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