Thursday 14 April 2022

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Snow Widows by Katherine MacInnes

William Collins
14 April 2022

My thanks to the publishers and Alison Menzies PR for my copy of this book

Katherine MacInnes' lively biography Snow Widows retells the story of Scott's expedition to the South Pole from the point of view of the five women closest to the ill-fated party. Her remarkable feat of historical reconstruction reveals a story of press intrusion, media management and the role of newly developed technology in bringing the story home. From fundraising to controlling the narrative, the women's influence runs right through this familiar story. Snow Widows offers a fresh perspective and a fascinating window onto a lost world

This group biography focusses on Kathleen Scott, who campaigned tirelessly to fund her husband's expedition and Catherine Oates, who sent prodigious funds in support of her son; Oriana Wilson, whose marriage was also a true scientific partnership and Empire Emily Bowers who had travelled the world as a missionary teacher; and set apart by her working class origins, Lois Evans, whose pension was a fraction of the other women’s, who suffered to see her husband (the only rating) scapegoated.

πŸ“– My Review ...

We know so much from history about those intrepid Antarctic explorers who risked life and limb to conquer places which, to most of us, still remain out of reach. And yet we rarely give a thought to the women they left behind to follow these ambitious dreams and of the consequences on the lives of their families. Snow Widows seeks to redress the balance and gives a comprehensive look at the five women behind the heroes, wives and mothers who, it must be said, are heroines in their own indomitable way.

Kathleen Scott - Wife
Oriana Wilson - Wife 
Emily Bowers -Mother
Caroline Oates - Mother
Lois Evans - Wife

Scott's ill fated final expedition to the Antarctic in 1912 is well documented but this unique account is shown through the eyes of each of the women who lived with the staunch ambition of their husbands and sons. Snow Widows brings, not only this vision to life in an authentically and meticulously researched account, but it also allows the Edwardian era to come alive with striking perception. I enjoyed getting to know these five very different women and by juxtaposing their individual accounts with what was happening to the Terra Nova we gain a remarkable insight into how much they all sacrificed in order to allow their menfolk the freedom they took for granted.

This is not a book to be rushed as the detail is considerable but it is definitely a fascinating and very readable biographical account by a writer whose passion for her subject shines through with every well written word. I felt immersed in detail, both large and small, transported back to the time of this fateful expedition and to those women who waited, in vain, for their return.

About the Author

Here's Katherine meeting the figurehead of the Terra Nova
©Kate Stuart Photography

Katherine MacInnes was shortlisted for the Biographer's Prize for an early proposal for Snow Widows over a decade agao. Since then she has continued to research the five women, both in the UK and New Zealand, the gateway to Antarctic exploration. Whilst bringing up her family she has written four children's books, three plays and graduated with a Masters degree from Oxford University. Formerly an arts journalist she has written features and reviewed popular literature and given talks on the invisible women behind polar exploration at the Royal Geographical Society. She is a member of the society of authors and the Biographer's Club.

Twitter @WmCollinsBooks


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