This is the story of one day in the life of Julia, a woman in her early 30s, who drifts round her home, which has been in her family for over a century and daydreams. She is the family archivist and the house is full of treasures like stuffed polar bears. Her great-great uncle was a polar explorer who died and she is trying to piece together the story of his life.
It sounded intriguing to me, but actually I was a little bit bored by it. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize and I’m not entirely sure why. It is written in a very arty way as though we are observers – watching Julia as she wanders around the house. There are flashbacks to the polar expedition, which I enjoyed a lot more, although it made for traumatic reading.
During the long day, Julia discovers a family secret which changes her view of history and her family. It’s kind of a big deal, but still seems fairly unimportant, just like her husband possibly going off with another woman. Julia’s husband Simon is a more solid and believable character and the parts of the book which focused on him are more the sort of thing I’m used to reading.
I did really like the descriptions of the house and built up a really clear picture of it in my mind. This is no Jane Green-esque beautiful interior decoration, this is stuffed polar bears for goodness sake!
If you are interested in polar explorers and Victorian times, this might appeal. But otherwise, I wouldn’t bother. There are so many good books out there, it’s not worth wasting your energy on this one.