This review is written with thanks to Quercus Books and Netgalley for my copy of Under A Pole Star.
Flora Mackie is twelve years old when she embarks on her first expedition to the Arctic Circle. This gives her a taste for exploring and she is soon leading her own expeditions. It is during one of these that she meets Jakob De Beyn, an explorer from Manhattan who is working on a rival expedition pioneered by Lester Armitage. Over time, Flora and Jakob grow close, but can their relationship survive against all the odds?
The majority of Under A Pole Star takes place in the Arctic Circle, and it is Penney's descriptions of the surroundings and the conditions there that drew me into this novel. It is easy to think of the Arctic Circle as mountains of snow, but the descriptions, particularly of the different colours within the landscape, enabled me to imagine what it would be like to be with Flora on her journey.
Throughout the novel, the reader follows Flora over a period of several years. At times, the switch between different times and places (usually at the beginning of each chapter) was difficult to follow; however, this technique did allow Penney to develop the characters of Flora and Jakob. I enjoyed the characterisation in the novel, as the different characters allowed Penney to explore themes of feminism, sexuality and love to great effect. I could also see elements of my own personality in that of Flora, as she is a confident woman who believes that nothing should stand in her way, although she is prone to moments of insecurity. My ability to relate to the characters and engage with the themes of the novel made Flora and Jakob's story more believable for me, and I was therefore interested to see how their relationship would develop.
The conclusion of Under A Pole Star is open ended, which means that I will be thinking about this novel for a long time to come.
Under A Pole Star is published on 3rd November and is available from Amazon.