Spoiler-free review of ‘Beneath a Pole Star’ by Stef Penney
My latest read has been ‘Beneath a Pole Star’ by Stef Penney. This is the first book I have read by this author and I ordered it from Amazon when the hardcover copy was on sale for something like £6.99 rather than £18.99! This is another book that I first came across in a Heat Magazine book review, they normally do a couple of books every week and pick some good ones!
It was only when I saw the front cover that I found out that Penney has previously won the ‘Costa Book of the Year’ award for one of her other novels ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’. She has also written ‘The Invisible Ones’, neither of which I have read but I hadn’t hear of Penney before this book.
Anyway, after I ordered it at the start of this year it took me a while to get round to reading it. I think when I received it I was surprised by the size of it! Its 61 chapters as well as a prologue and epilogue and around 600 pages so it’s pretty large. Until now I haven’t picked it up but for the purpose of this blog I began reading it on 10th April 2017.
Straight away I thought ‘I am going to enjoy this book’ – the themes of exploring, astronomy (looking for the pole star) and Eskimos made it sound interesting from the beginning. Now an old lady Flora is going to the North Pole. We begin to hear the story of how a women in that time (1890’s) could have been an explorer. Switching back to accounts from a young Flora, after her mother’s death her father takes her on his ship the Vera from Dundee on his whaling expedition.
Unfortunately, my first thoughts about the book were unfounded, I didn’t really enjoy it and found it a bit of a slog at times. Although the story was good, I didn’t finish the book and think ‘I’m glad I read that’ which I hate saying as it is somebody’s work but this book just wasn’t for me.
It might be because I went into my reading with pre-existing ideas that it would be about adventure (which is it in parts) and rather it was more of a love story. I also like conclusions and the end of the novel I didn’t feel wrapped the story up, there was no definite answers to some of the topics that had developed over the course of the novel which I found a bit disappointing. And as the novel was already so long I found it strange that I wanted a couple more chapters just to round things up.
On a plus side, I loved the way in which the novel was section off into parts 1-9 and at the beginning of each part was some information on consultations, etc.
I also loved the characters, I was rooting for Flora the whole way through so I was a little disappointed that she so easily gave in when it came to the men in the novel, you will know what I mean when you read it. I wanted her to be strong and independent but I suppose the time in which the novel was set, this wasn’t possible and maybe it is silly of me to think that would be possible for her. Despite this I really liked her as a character and I also really liked the other main character Jakob, his doctor friend Frank and both of their families. Penney did well to incorporate all these characters and let you get to know them throughout the novel.
I wanted to give the book a chance so I read the whole thing, but if I had not been wanting to review it for this blog I think I may have put it down. I finished it fairly quickly although I think again that is because I wanted to review it for the blog.
I didn’t dislike it but I also didn’t really enjoy it, if you like a good love story this is for you and also if you like lots of landscape descriptions. Parts of the book I really, really enjoyed, I can’t tell you which … I promised this would be spoiler free! And I think that is what inevitable kept me reading and not putting it down.
On the whole I wouldn’t read again, but I would, if I had the opportunity, give Penney’s other books a go, I think it is more my taste rather than her style of writing that formed my opinion on this book and I really hope that this review hasn’t put any potential readers off!
Have you read this book? Or have you read any others by Stef Penney? As always let me know in the comments!