Dead Men by Richard Pierce lured me in rather like when I first saw photos of the great expanse of ice that is Antarctica. Why was it that Scott, Bowers and Wilson stayed in their tent for ten days despite being eleven miles from safety? Having read Scott’s diaries I wondered what Richard would offer and his offering is a plausible explanation, for Antarctica does call.
Throughout Dead Men Richard skilfully weaves the tale of Scott and his men and their expedition to the South Pole, with a story of love between Birdie and Adam. Birdie is fascinated by Bowers, whom her parents named her after. As such she plans to find Scott and his body. Adam is drawn into her life, like a moth to a flame. Together they journey to Antarctica.
Birdie is a complex and real character, she is harsh especially in the beginning, but within her is a kind heart. She is driven by her passion to find out what happened to Scott and his companions in those fateful final days. Birdie reminds me of winter landscapes, beautiful at first sight, yet unforgiving if not treated with respect. This is my sense of what she asks from Adam, don’t just love me, but be alive with me.
“And don’t you think that to remember people who’ve died with courage and integrity might actually encourage those alive now to live with some respect, some dignity, some endeavour?”
For me the ice is the main character, it is unrelenting, it is what Scott and his men were up against and where Birdie and Adam find themselves. The ice is not only a physical challenge, but a mental one too, such an expanse, to think, to accept, to let go. It is as if the ice holds what is important, as when Birdie and Adam attempt to uncover what happened to Scott and his companions. That when it is embraced its beauty shows and it gives back.
Dead Men is as alive as I imagine the ice of Antarctica to be. It lured me in with the mystery of Scott and his men and left me with a renewed sense of wonder for nature; the beauty that comes from embracing life and the natural world.
Posted: 15 May 2019