So, let’s start with the dust wrapper. First of all: those eyes. I recognised them from somewhere else. Right enough, AE Batchelor, the artist, also illustrated the dust wrapper of my copy of Drina Goes on Tour by Jean Estoril and those eyes are Drina’s as well as this nurse’s. Next up, this is the cover of a romance, not a career novel for teens. And thirdly, what are Mark and Andrea (I assume it’s them) doing standing around outside in the Arctic dressed for the wards of a city hospital in the UK?
And then we come to the blurb about the author. I know the book was published (by Brockhampton Press) in 1965 and I know that things have changed in the last fifty five years but it’s so politically incorrect! I’m not going to quote it but the terminology is outdated to say the least. However, we do discover that the author had nursed in the Arctic so we can assume that her descriptions of life there in the 1960s are accurate.
So, to the story itself. You know that it’s bad to judge a book by its cover? Well, I decided to buy this one on the strength of its title. I love all things Arctic, especially if they’re also Norwegian so I took a punt. However, we’re in the Canadian Arctic here as we meet Clare Tristan, a new nurse on her way to Wolf Inlet where she will be working alongside Andrea Vaughn. She and we garner a lot of information as her journey goes on, we meet some Mounties and then the Eskimos (yes, I know they’d be described as Inuit in Canada today).
Clare and Andrea are described as the only white people in the settlement but some of the Eskimos speak English and have been exposed to other lifestyles. Many of them have European names as well as their own ones and the only really jarring note I found was Clare’s relief at this as she’s sure she’ll never be able to pronounce the Eskimo ones. In general, the author treats everyone, of whatever nationality, sympathetically. I did wonder though why the incomers to the community were all British rather than Canadian…
I was going to give you a synopsis of the book but it’s very linear with little plot development. Mostly, it’s a series of vignettes of life in a remote community. They’re well told and there’s some character interaction and development and I enjoyed those. Although I’ve shelved this book in my collection of career novels, it doesn’t really fit the usual description of one. It’s more a general novel in which the main character happens to be a nurse.