All the White Spaces”

Nature is the most frightening enemy

“All the White Spaces” opens on December 1918. In a first-person narrative, Jo relates the duty, the sacrifice, and the horrors. The War had ended, but Rufus and Francis were still in France, incapacitated by their wounds, badly septic, from the thick mud of the battlefield. Then, the telegram that changed everything arrived with handwritten words and sentences; “Deeply regret to inform you.”  Her brothers had left her behind.

Jo knew their stories so well, those explorers of Antarctica; there were monsters in the corners of the map, hiding in all the white spaces. Jo’s war-hero brothers, off on their adventure to the great white continent, were invincible, laughing, triumphant, leaving her behind, but now all that had changed. She was the last Morgan sibling, and she knew where she had to go, Antarctica. Of course, “Jo” is discovered, but that does not stop the mission, the pull of Antarctic that all on the ship feel.

The narrative is foreboding and sinister; activating the senses. Winter comes with its darkness and the wind whips over the surface of the ice. The coal-black sky blots out the stars. The hull is frozen into the shore ice like an almond in a bar of nougat. There were faint smells, thick, sweet, like rotting peaches. The settling snow crunched under boots. The wind moaned ceaselessly over the ice. The moaning of winds over the ice was ceaseless. The mountains were angular dark slashes of ink on a white-and-blue page. There came a gunshot, then silence.

“All the White Spaces” is a complex mix of historic fiction, mystery, suspense, and outright horror. Is the setting, Antarctic itself the villain in the story, or is something else? I received a review copy of “All the White Spaces” from Ally Wilkes, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, and Simon &Schuster. It was somewhat slow to read because it is filled with compelling details. The book also contains a convenient list of the 1920 British Coats Land Expedition in the front.