Book of the week : Love in a cold climate

16th April 2004 at 01:00
The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers: coming of age in the Arctic
By Edward Beauclerk Maurice
Fourth Estate pound;16.99

Today, when countless young Britons pour across the globe in search of adventure that includes hot showers, coffee and built-in music, not to mention emails home asking for extra dosh, it is hard to conjure up the bygone days of a fading empire when a young lad might be despatched to the Arctic to make his fortune with little hope of communicating with home for a year or two.

In 1930, Edward Beauclerk Maurice was a shy 16-year-old. Since shortly after he was born, he and his mother and siblings had been living off the grudging charity of his dead father's mother in a chilly house on the north Somerset coast.

Whatever impulse suggested he sign up as a Hudson's Bay apprentice on a five-year contract, to trade with the Inuit peoples of the Arctic, seems lost in the mists of time. A mixture of desire for adventure and rebellion at the thought of a life of dull privation on a farm in New Zealand, where the family were emigrating, seems to have propelled him into another world in which dogs were as important as people and where deep bonds were formed in the face of harsh winds and deadening cold.

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