Blasts from the Past: Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski (1997)

Cover image for Skating to Antarctica by Jenny DiskiThis is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy in as many hands as I could.

It’s not that I don’t read any non-fiction but I review very little of it. This is only the second non-fiction entry in my blasts from the past series which I’ve been running for four years now. I’ve read several books by the late Jenny Diski which combine memoir with travelogue, all of which I’ve enjoyed but this one’s my favourite by far. I much prefer it to any of the novels by her I’ve read.

Skating to Antarctica is Diski’s account of her journey into the landscape of those legendary explorers, Shackleton and Scott, coupled with her own exploration, perhaps equally brave, of a childhood which hardly bears contemplation, littered as it is with suicide attempts by both parents, sudden departures, the arrival of the bailiffs and the threat of eviction – all against a continuous soundtrack of almost melodramatic histrionics. Diski sets off to Antarctica in search of oblivion, a pristine whiteout, but she finds a landscape which is often bleak sometimes luminously beautiful but rarely, if ever, monochrome.

Leavened with a wry humour and astute observation, it’s the story of two adventures – one into the Antarctic and one into a troubled past, prompted by her daughter’s determination to find out if her grandmother was still alive. I loved it.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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