The Birthday Boys

by Beryl Bainbridge | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0786702079 Global Overview for this book
Registered by BookGroupMan of Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on 1/13/2006
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Friday, January 13, 2006
Fictionalised account of Scott's ill-fated adventure in the Antarctic. I hope to read this soon, but, '...I may be some time'!

(Aug'07) I saw the RRS Discovery on holiday in Dundee - well passing through really - so this has leapt to the top of Mt toberead :)

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Thursday, September 13, 2007
(11/09) *includes spoiler – probably*

BB has done it again, a brilliant reconstruction of Scott’s fateful 2nd (?) visit to the Antarctic as seen through the accounts of the 5 men who took the last leg of the trip to the pole, and were eventually to die returning. Other than the sketchy details of Scott being beaten by the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen and the famous stoic understated quote attributed to Captain Oates, I know very little about the history. Earlier generations looked on these late Victorian & Edwardian adventurers and explorers as the ultimate heroes and embodiment of the spirit of the age, unfortunately nowadays our icons are likely to be less brave than brazen, less innocent & idealistic, more calculating and cynical.

It did all seem, to coin a Bainbridge phrase, ‘an awfully big adventure’, although ultimately tragic. Scott comes across as a complex figure, leading by example, but wavering between dogmatic and lacking in confidence. His ally Dr Edward ‘Uncle Bill’ Wilson acts as confidante, and he seems to have an uneasy relationship with ‘Titus’ Oates, that is until the latter is ready to meet his fate and becomes less aloof.

The character portraits are typically brilliant, the historical detail fascinating, although I found the plot a little sketchy in places. In the end the final push relied on ‘man hauling’, after losing motorized transport earlier on, with poor ponies and not enough dogs (the main reason Amundsen beat them to the prize?), it became a boys-own feat of naivety & physical endurance. As summed up by team mascot Lt. ‘Birdie’ Bowers, "The world is changing, and soon the machine will be of more importance than the body, and it’s tremendous luck to have been born into the last few seconds of an epoch in which a man is still required to stand up and be counted." Maybe that’s one of the reasons that such adventures and adventurers are now less a part of the British cultural identity, and we don't tell the stories any more...a great shame.

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Sending to North Wales...enjoy

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