There is a an ominous sense that what starts out as a camper deciding to stay on and carry out a few odd jobs is moving towards something much darker.
We all recognise the sense that without resolve our lives can be controlled by others and so it seems is happening to a camper who decides to stay on in a lakeside campsite after the other holiday makers have gone. As the season ends the lone tourist finds himself being dragged more and more into the small lakeside community.
The farmer who owns the campsite seems to be the one propelling him into not only extending his stay but also into getting committed to carrying out an ever longer list of jobs after his attempt to leave fails because of rain flooding his motorbike engine.
Despite the sense of danger you can feel as a reader the main character seems happy enough allowing himself to be dragged back to the farm and ever deeper in debt to Mr Parker the farmer in charge.
Although there is humour here, although it’s dark, maybe it’s me but this story conjured up images of a more gruesome and political nature than perhaps is intended. The theory of transportation and the slavery of Mules also has echoes of the holocaust. Maybe that’s just a self projection onto it.
In other regards the novel, which is well written, raises questions about exploration and just why people risked their lives to go to places like the Antarctic. Was it simply to do it or was there an ulterior motive about hoping to find something there. Just as the Spanish found their Aztec gold did the other unknown areas of the globe keep similar secrets?
There is a moment when suddenly things become clear and the relationship between the explorers and mules is explained. Have to admit I didn’t see that coming and that was enjoyable.
A review will follow at some point…
Compared to something like the exhaustive and historical study that I once waded through by Roland Huntford that charted the story of Scott and Amundsen comparing their different approaches to finding the South Pole this book is much more consumable and done with a great deal more humour.
But the issues are the same with Britain with its mission headed by a public figure, the celebrated explorer Johns, in a race with what you assume is the Norwegian team staffed with professionals that are ahead because they landed first.
Put the idea of the pole to one side and this is a study of characters under strain. The British and the Norwegians have their class systems going with stars and tent sleeping systems making sure people know exactly where they are.
But there are also moments of black humour as they both make mistakes and hit the river at roughly the same time causing excitement and errors. The race is finely poised but the real question is whether or not they will kill each other before they get there.