I’ve read many accounts of European Arctic exploration, but hadn’t realised the Americans did some too – which, given their purchase of Alaska in 1867, shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
I think this book was recommended on Ask Metafilter, and it’s a good read.
Motivated by their proximity to the Bering Strait and the Kuro Siwa current and theories of the Open Polar Sea, the Jeannette Expedition, led by George De Long and financed by James Gordon Bennett Jr. (of Gordon Bennett! fame), set off from San Fransisco in 1879.
The survivors made it to the Lena River Delta on the Siberian coast after almost two years trapped in the ice, a thousand mile march across the summer ice and a final, fatal sea crossing in the boats they’d hauled since the USS Jeannette had sunk. Two of the boats made it to land, one party made it to a Tungus settlement, only 2 men from the other party made it to safety after meeting Yakut hunters whilst seeking help for the rest of their group.
I’m always intrigued by the fate of the crew, the men who didn’t get the fame and the glory. Sides tells us that Charles Tong Sing (Lin Tongsheng), the Chinese American cook and steward, briefly became New York gangster Scarface Charlie but mainly ran a number of Chinese restaurants, worked as a court interpreter and a policeman (but doesn’t mention that he was also a member of the Greely Rescue Expedition together with the rightly-feted Melville); Wikipedia mentions that crewman Herbert Leach, the last member of the expedition to die, in 1935, became a factory worker.
It’s a sweltering July in Venice and Brunetti and Griffoni, with occasional assistance from Vianello and Signora Elettra, are investigating the last few cryptic words of a dying woman. They wind up investigating environmental crime revolving around a water sampling company, and a murder.
Plenty of pertinent observations about food, friendship, misogyny and modern life in Italy – and Venice in particular.
I loved Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and have vivid memories of devouring it on a wet afternoon in a guest house in northern Laos many moons ago.
Twenty years later, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is equally wonderful, albeit a long novel with difficult themes: Insurgency in Kashmir, Indian Army torture and murder, the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, ethnic and religious conflicts between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities, the extremes of poverty and wealth.
But there’s plenty of love and joy in there too, revolving around the outcast communities of Old Delhi.