Sara Sheridan’s The Ice Maiden is a remarkable tale: we gain fresh perspective into what it was like to be a seafarer’s wife, a woman on board ship, and a part of pioneering Polar expeditions.
1842. Stranded on Deception Island in the South Atlantic, her whaling captain husband lost at sea, Karina is destitute and desperate. Disguised as a cabin boy, she stows away on a British ship. But Karina is about to get a nasty surprise.
As she grows closer to ship’s surgeon Joseph Hooker, Karina and the rest of the crew find themselves pushed to the limits both physically and emotionally as conditions worsen onboard.
Engulfed in the chillingly hostile Antarctic landscape, something extraordinary happens – and Karina’s story becomes intertwined with some of the 20th century’s bravest Polar explorers …
The Ice Maiden is told in three distinct parts: one land-based, the next at sea, and the last of which is ice bound.
We first meet Karina on Deception Island. And although the name refers to it looking deceptively like an island, when in fact it’s a ring around a flooded caldera, could there be a more sinister-sounding place than Deception Island? It doesn’t bode well.
This ominous start and her life on Deception Island help explain why she takes the drastic next step in finding a way off the island. Her route out of there particularly fraught at a time when sailors were superstitious about women being on board ship, believing they brought bad luck, but of course this wasn’t the only way in which a woman’s presence could unsettle the men.
Life at sea is exceptionally hard and Sara Sheridan does an excellent job of bringing this working ship to life, with all the knocks, noise, smells and challenges of living in cramped quarters while being at the mercy of the elements. I was relieved when Karina finds some small measure of happiness and protection here, even though I sensed it would not last the voyage. Read more