18 February 2012

Review: Antarctica on a Plate by Alexa Thomson

Antarctica on a Plate by Alexa Thomson

Published: 7 November 2005 by Summersdale

Pages: 320 (paperback)

Genre/s: Travel, Non-Fiction

Source: Own library

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK


She came. She saw. She burnt the toast. A young woman with a stellar city career but an increasing dissatisfaction with life, Alexa applies for the position of cook with a private company which organises Antarctic operations. Armed with an old cookbook, she attempts to create three-course meals with no electricity or running water and struggles to defrost meat in the coldest place on Earth. Life in a thin nylon tent in the company of scientists, explorers and eccentrics soon begins to take on extraordinary dimensions. As 75-mile-an-hour winds blow and tensions rise, friendships - and love - are forged in this frozen neighbourhood. Alexa Thomson has been a web designer for an investment bank and a writer for Salon.com. She divides her time between Sydney and San Francisco.

My Thoughts

Suffering from something like an early mid-life crisis, Alexa Thomson makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to apply for a job as a cook at an Antarctic base camp for a summer season. Having no previous polar experience, and having worked in mass-catering for a few years, she is unprepared and understandably anxious when she finally lands the job and preparations begin for her journey to the south.

The first real problem for me with this book was the lead up to reaching Antarctica - sure, it was interesting to read about the preparations, Alexa's nervousness and meeting other polar adventurers, but it was the main reason it took me so long to get into the swing of the book.

For the most part, I could understand how Alexa felt and coped with the situations that she found herself in, such as needing the toilet in your tent during a blizzard, or finding 20 hungry men in your dining tent at 5:30am demanding a full English breakfast, but at other times I found her to be quite negative about her experiences and if she was the chef in my camp I would have had a few choice words to say to her!

The most controversial part of Alexa's story is towards the end of the book, when she makes a very questionable moral choice which some readers simply won't like - and it's not expounded on enough to make readers at least understand the choice that she made.

Overall I enjoyed this book - Alexa isn't an intrepid, brave explorer - she is an average woman who finds herself in an extraordinary situation and copes admirably for the most part.

My favourite line from the book: ''I am toiling through War and Peace. I am reading it with relish and satisfaction. Tolstoy is so dense and encompassing that Antarctica's blankness is the perfect place to immerse myself in such Russian intrigue.'' I'm certain there's a lot of quality reading time to be had in Antarctica - after all, what else is there to distract you except loads of ice!

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