*A Newstatesman Book of the Year*
‘Nimble, vital, unexpectedly affecting’ Observer
Bestselling travel writer Horatio Clare joins an icebreaker for a voyage through the ice-packs of the far north.
'We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?'
A message from the Finnish embassy launches Horatio Clare on a voyage around an extraordinary country and an unearthly place, the frozen Bay of Bothnia, just short of the Arctic circle. Travelling with the crew of Icebreaker Otso, Horatio, whose last adventure saw him embedded on Maersk container vessels for the bestseller Down to the Sea in Ships, discovers stories of Finland, of her mariners and of ice.
Aboard Otso Horatio gets to know the men who make up her crew, and explores Finland’s history and character. Surrounded by the extraordinary colours and conditions of a frozen sea, he also comes to understand something of the complexity and fragile beauty of ice, a near-miraculous substance which cools the planet, gives the stars their twinkle and which may hold all our futures in its crystals.
"Icebreaker sails with a phlegmatic Finnish crew into threatening and threatened polar waters... Clare’s witty prose, filled with vivid descriptions, bears witness to the melting skin of our fragile planet and all that its loss might mean for our souls"
"Clare has a gift for pinning to the page all that comes his way. His is a joy in framing with such precision and flair that it is the opposite of indulgent, allowing the reader to share in his own marvellous encounters... nimble, vital, unexpectedly affecting"
"Icebreaker has many of the pleasures of classic travel writing: a pure sense of visiting another world in the company of an eloquent guide. But this is not a backward-looking book, and its warning for the future is clear… The Met Office estimates the Arctic could be seasonally ice-free by the 2040s. It may not be many decades, then, until Clare’s travelogue is a record of a vanished world"
"Light fills his writing... Mr Clare is a great enjoyer -- of people, landscape, and above all of language"
"Salted with excellent topographical language... Clare has an ear and an eye for words... one can't have enough of the big white"