The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister details the fictional account of an all woman crew sent on an arctic expedition over uncharted waters to discover the fate of one man and his now presumed lost boating crew. Set in the mid 1800’s, it highlights how women of the time were afforded less rights than men were. Women were expected to keep their heads down, dress modestly, of not doing things men were able to and to be better at it and more importantly, of curbing their ambitions and dreams. These rules of course had exceptions, especially when you had wealth but for the most part, women played second fiddle to men. So when Virginia Reeve was asked to head an all woman expedition into waters and land never set foot on before by any, it was too good an opportunity to give up. However, all choices have consequences.
“If you believe that no one deserves to die, you have to acknowledge that no one deserves to live.” – Virginia Reeves
The Arctic Fury alternates between Virginia Reeves in a Boston courthouse for her current trial and the retelling of her expedition. The author makes it immediately clear that the expedition was a failure from the very beginning of the book. The meat of it relies on finding out just what exactly happened to these women during their journey, especially of Caprice, which Virginia now stands trial for her murder. The biggest problem here and really the heart of it is that it just wasn’t interesting. This included everything from the failed journey itself to the actual women of the expedition. Even the events in the court felt mundane as it was so one sided in favoring the prosecution. While so much time was spent on Virginia herself, not much time was spent on the other women except for a few. I found myself actually enjoying more the beginning of their journey when they were on a boat heading towards their destination then when they were on land. Although each women selected for the expedition were selected for their specific talent and skills, it felt like it hardly mattered except in a select few occasions.
The Arctic Fury feels like it has an identity crisis. Is it supposed to be more of a courtroom drama? As mentioned earlier, the one sided prosecution didn’t help in this. There was no back and forth argument between the prosecution and the defense. Is it supposed to highlight the journey into the unknown itself? Well, we all know the journey ended as a failure from the very beginning. In fact, not much of anything really happens. Their journey got off on first gear, hit second, tried to go for third and beyond but grinded the gears completely instead. Or is the book supposed to be about women’s strength and bravery in a time when they were meant to be held in check? This might have hit home if the author had spent more time on the other women and not always on Virginia and reminding and hinting us at her troubled past. The camaraderie and friendship highlighted felt a bit false and uninspiring in that yes, the women that survived the journey went through hell and back but as the reader, not enough was on display for us to actually care. One shining example is Margaret the journalist. Virginia and her rarely spoke to each other let alone any other form of interaction except during their introduction in the beginning and we’re supposed to believe that she cared enough about Virginia to be present at her trial afterwards?
“However much preparation you undertake, Miss Reeve, I doubt you will ever truly be prepared.” – Brooks
The author in my honest opinion made a big mistake in choosing how to write and structure this novel. I just don’t know of what to make of this novel after having read it. If I wanted a courtroom drama, I would have likely gone for a non-fiction. In fact, even if I wanted a story detailing a failed expedition and of survival, In the Heart of the Sea which I have just read and was what Moby Dick was based on, was so much better. Finally, if I had wanted to read about women’s strength and bravery in the 1800’s, I’m sure once again I could have picked something from the non-fiction category and that would have sufficed.