"There is the feeling here that civilization is still just a speck, and it makes me feel small in a good way."
To the Bright Edge of the World is written by Eowyn Ivey and published by Tinder Press.
This book is bloody amazing. I don't normally give out 5 star reviews, or reveal my star rating at the beginning of the review, but To the Bright Edge of The World is definitely a 5 star worthy book. I already mentioned it in my February Favourite Books post, and now I've finally got round to giving it a proper review.
Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska's hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its rich natural resources to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.
Forrester leaves behind his young wife, Sophie, with the child he had never expected to have. Adventurous in spirit, Sophie does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband carves a path through the wilderness. What she does not anticipate is that their year apart will demand every ounce of courage and fortitude of her that it does her husband.
To the Bright Edge of the World is the second book by Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, which I reviewed here. I enjoyed The Snow Child but I think I like this one even more. Now that I'm writing it down though it's difficult to explain exactly what I like about it. It's a book that covers everything, yet doesn't let any theme slack. There's adventure, love, friendship, mystery, magic, motherhood, history and lots more. It also covers important themes like women's rights, homosexuality and racism, but without being preachy or heavy.
Mostly it's just Ivey's fantastic writing. This is a very ambitious story to tell but she just nails it. Her writing is beautiful and measured, but not so flowery that it distracts from the story. In The Snow Child Eowyn Ivey really brings alive the harsh but beautiful Alaskan country and she does the same in To the Bright Edge of the World. Allen and his team have to travel through an unbelievably harsh climate and landscape and at times it's almost painful to read as you can feel the cold coming off the page.
"This land has a vast and cold beauty. Sun everywhere glints off blue sea, ice, snow. The refraction of light is as sharp as the cry of the sea birds overhead."
It's not just the setting though, Ivey's characters are well-rounded, fascinating and unique yet relatable. It's mainly told through diary entries, which really puts you in touch with Sophie and Allen. I particularly liked Sophie, who is a woman ahead of her time. It was interesting and frustrating to see the daily obstacles she came up against.
"It is what they want of us, though, isn't it? A good woman is predictable, and seeks out a predictable life. They would have us kept safe and quiet and insipid."
To the Bright Edge of the World encompasses a lot of prejudices, especially towards the Native Americans, who are often treated as little better than animals by the interlopers. It's interesting how the relationships evolve when they get further into the wild and have to rely on the help of the native tribes.
I loved so many of the characters and their relationships. Even if I didn't quite like the character, they were believable and their relationships with others were a pleasure to read.
I love Sophie and Allen's relationship, you can really tell they love each other but it's not soppy or overpowering.
"Yet what of love? That is another, more solid thing; it is not tricked by fine lights or spirits. It is more of earth and time, like a river-turned stone."
I also enjoyed the relationship between Walt and Josh, the two characters writing to each other in the present as they discover Sophie and Allen's diaries. It's a lovely relationship between two apparently very different characters who connect over this history.
Another element that stood out for me was the way Ivey seamlessly mixed magic and reality. It's subtle and not overpowering but she interweaves folklore so naturally into the story that it doesn't jar or slow down the writing, and makes it all the more interesting.
This book is not a fast read; it's a slow-moving story but it feels perfectly paced, not rushing but revealing character and plot secrets at the exactly right time.
There is lots more I can say about To the Bright Edge of the World but I'd just ramble. It's great, go and read it now.
My Rating: 5/5
I received a digital copy of To the Bright Edge of the World via NetGalley in return for an honest review. My thanks to the author and publisher.