The chronometer found its way into the hands of Cecil Meares, who supplied the dogs and horses for another fateful expedition: Scott’s attempt to be first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen got there first, and his disappearance while searching for another explorer is documented through the eyes of Bess Magids, his Canadian mistress, a fur trader from the North West Territories. There are loops and connections everywhere.
Weaving the narrative together are two current-day characters stranded in Canada’s wintry north: Nelson Nilsson, a drifter in search of his geographer brother, and the woman he picks up from the airport, Fay Morgan. Both are secretive and awkward people who rub each other up the wrong way. Fay’s on a quest to learn more about her grandfather, another character gone missing, and the two soon discover Nelson’s brother Bert has been collating stories about the North-West Passage, stories that include Hugh Morgan.
A book like this might seem unwieldy, but O’Loughlin is a master storyteller, keeping you hooked with every new story thread, many of which would make a terrific novel on their own. He knows how to bring the personalities of historical figures to life; it all brims with vibrant dialogue and evocative descriptions. And while he gives the reader a lot of information, the facts of what really happened are often as intangible as ever. For me, Minds of Winter is one of the stand-out novels of 2016.
Posted by JAM
Catalogue link: Minds of Winter