Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Book Review by FilmyLoop:
Introduction to the novel
Cold Courage: Extraordinary Times is written by Willy Mitchell. The book tells the tale of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Shakelton’s expedition along with his bravery and leadership; is one of the greatest stories of human endurance and so was their ship “Endurance” that they onboarded as they started their expedition to the South Pole. For almost three years (1914 – 1917), Shackelton and his crew survived one of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on Earth.
The author writes the story of the entire expedition that consisted of two teams. One onboarding Endurance which was known as the Weddell Sea Party; captained by Frank Worsley. The other onboarding Aurora, which was known as Ross Sea Party captained by Mackintosh.
Glimpses of unique moments such as the murder of Archduke Ferdinand, his wife Sophie that acted as an ignition for the beginning of the Great War across Europe; loneliness felt by the loved ones of the explorers, and the sub-story of two British Army soldiers fighting together but falling prey to the horrendous system of systemic killing weaves a story that shows the extraordinary times.
Summary of the Novel
The story starts when Willy Mitchell’s grandfather Walter Beattie Mitchell tells him a story about Walter meeting a homeless man in Wellington, New Zealand in the year 1929. The homeless man, Harry McNish, told Walter about the story of Endurance in exchange for a hot meal and a drink or two. Flipping through the pages of London times, Harry came across an advertisement of a polar expedition to the South Pole. Waving his wife goodbye, grabbing his beloved cat, Mrs. Chippy and with his carpentry skill, he set off to London in the hopes of an adventure. He decided that he would write about his journey in the form of poetry which may be published later. He named his book “dramming’’.
The team consisting of 28 men in Endurance set sail from Plymouth, England on 6th August 1914. The tale of the great exploration and the hurdles the team overcame together becomes a lingering point in the book. The author has penned down their personalities thoughtfully that has made them prominent members of the team.
Under the brilliant leadership of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his loyal officers, the Weddel sea party didn’t lose any men but three men of Ross sea party had lost their lives. The story is written as a flashback but the writer has very carefully written the timelines to make it more gripping to the readers about the different scenarios happening simultaneously in the past. The exploration, the rescue missions and the eminent joy upon touching the mainland as they returned to Europe have been described exquisitely. The bravery, loyalty, mental strength, difference in personalities, willingness to survive, change of emotions, distraught, love, and respect have been perfected through the course of the story.
Frank Wild, the right-hand man of Shackelton loved to observe human behaviour and indulge in behaviour studies. He was a brilliant officer who bonded well and kept the team together, respected, and treated everyone equally. He knew the importance of teamwork and because of him, the men remained sane till the end of their journey.
Shackelton was a celebrity of his times for being a successful explorer. The crew cared about him (their boss) more than their own lives.
Harry McNish was a simple 40-year-old carpenter. He was married three times but he mourned his cat Mrs. Chippy the most. He was a good poet and his poems could be seen in every chapter of the book.
Frank Worsley was a confident captain. As the story progresses, he becomes one of the best friends of Frank Wild and Shackelton. He had great navigation skills which is why the crew survived their hardest journey through the roaring sea.
The theme of the novel
The theme is historical and adventure fiction. It is based on true events from the past and the heroic times of Polar expeditions. The author has mixed some of his imaginations so the readers could go back to the past delicately without losing interest in the story. The statistics and the facts about the brave heroes’ of this said expedition are true.
Anyone above the age group of 15 is suitable to read this book. Keep in mind that few of the terms and language used is directed converted to the Irish accent such as “your” to “yer”. Some of the complex English terms are written as observation towards the end of the book so the reader could go to the end to check up the word or the sentence.
Would you/would you not recommend this book? Why?
Yes, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who keeps an interest in sailors or navy. It was a quite insightful and detailed description of the polar expedition and the sailor’s personal experience and growth over the harsh course of time. It was engaging until the last moment with an interesting ending.
Cold Courage: Extraordinary Times gave me an insight into the era of polar exploration during the Great World War I. It taught me the importance of perseverance and inspired me to keep pushing my limits once I read about those brave men and women who go to great lengths to achieve their set goal.
It pained me to know about the families and their loved ones that the men left behind when they went away on terrific journeys for years.
The beginning of the 20th century was indeed full of ambitions, sorrows but altogether an extraordinary time.