The Man Who Ate His Boots

The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 15 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (161 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The enthralling and often harrowing history of the adventurers who searched for the Northwest Passage, the holy grail of 19th-century British exploration.

After the triumphant end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the British took it upon themselves to complete something they had been trying to do since the 16th century: find the fabled Northwest Passage, a shortcut to the Orient via a sea route over northern Canada. For the next 35 years, the British Admiralty sent out expedition after expedition to probe the ice-bound waters of the Canadian Arctic in search of a route, and then, after 1845, to find Sir John Franklin, the Royal Navy hero who led the last of these Admiralty expeditions and vanished into the maze of channels, sounds, and icy seas with two ships and 128 officers and men.

In The Man Who Ate His Boots, Anthony Brandt tells the whole story of the search for the Northwest Passage, from its beginnings early in the age of exploration through its development into a British national obsession to the final sordid, terrible descent into scurvy, starvation, and cannibalism. Sir John Franklin is the focus of the book but it covers all the major expeditions and a number of fascinating characters, including Franklin's extraordinary wife, Lady Jane, in vivid detail.

The Man Who Ate His Boots is a rich and engaging work of narrative history that captures the glory and the folly of this ultimately tragic enterprise.

©2010 Anthony Brandt (P)2010 Random House

Critic Reviews

“Tony Brandt is a superb and profound writer who leads us through a tale of such hardship you feel as if you've been aboard ship with them. It’s no small feat to use a bit of history to illuminate the future, but Brandt pulls it off. This is narrative history at its absolute gripping best.” (Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm)
“Heroism tinged with scandal, high adventure beset by unbearable suffering...A sterling examination of a national obsession that tracks the finds as well as the futilities of more than 60 years of harrowing Arctic exploration.” ( Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about The Man Who Ate His Boots

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They don't get any better than this

This book is amazing. This is the best audiobook I have ever owned, out of roughly 200. I have listened to it 20 times because there is so much there. Listen to it while looking at a map of Northern Canada.

15 people found this helpful

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Good, but not great

Having just finished Kingdom of Ice, I was on an arctic exploration kick, so I got this one. It was a good enough book, and the narrator did a great job. It was just hard to follow much of it due to not being able to see the maps they were talking about. I think a hard copy would be better for this one because you could see the islands, straights, and other areas being explored.

13 people found this helpful

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Starts off slow.

probably the first quarter of the book is a very general description of the English navy of the late 1700's. it describes very many journeys in no great detail, to include when the "man ate his own boots". as the book moves on it gains focus and the stories go into more detail.
its overall not as good as Shackleton's book Endurance, but not many books can be that good.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting overview, but should be sold with maps

I am in the midst of listening to this for the second time. I love the voice of the narrator. And the story is interesting. However, the story is a bit frustrating because the audio version includes no maps. There are scores of place names used in this book, and it is impossible to really follow the story without some reference to maps. The print version includes a handful of maps, but could benefit from a dozen more. I ended up buying several large color maps of Northern Canada and the Arctic to help me follow along with the narrated story. This certainly does help. But even with these maps handy, unless you are going to keep one eye on the maps at all times, you are bound to miss some references. Still, I find it to be an interesting story. It is rather episodic, briefly recounting dozens of voyages, with the greatest emphasis on those of John Franklin.

2 people found this helpful

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A good listen

Just finished Endurance then this book. A good pairing. I would recomend both and one on the Caribbean Naval exploits and Pirates.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

lots of very cold winters

Informative survey of the British Empire's drive to find the Northwest Passage. Good detail on the personalities as well as the travails of exploration in the Arctic. Terrific British narration by Simon Vance.

8 people found this helpful

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  • TM
  • 02-27-19

dense, dense, dense

Hardcore history lovers will enjoy this. It focused too much on naval history in general for my tastes.

1 person found this helpful

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Arctic quest

This is a book that gives you all you can need about arctic Exploration with Franklin focus. Really interesting and more exciting than any novel. Great! Listen to it and you will want to know even more about British explorers .

2 people found this helpful

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Awesome book!

This book is an incredibly detailed account of Franklin's life and work and the Arctic. It also provides excellent history of exploration in that region prior to his work as well as that of many other important explorers of the same period including Parry, John Ross, James Ross, Rae, Richardson, McClintock McClure and many others. The collections of first and secondhand accounts from the men on these expeditions captured my interest for the entirety of the book. Thanks!

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Amazing story

This is another excellent audiobook, and again is read superbly. You (the listener) can easily picture the scenes, and it is very captivating and addictive. I really like how the book explored the history of the Northwest Passage, as well as Franklin's earlier trips there. This audiobook is very much based-on-fact. Highly recommended to those who love stories of exploration, discovery, ice, and colonization.

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  • The Quiet Reader
  • 06-26-18

Informative though patchy history

I found this book to be very informative and very well written and read. Though at times it seemed lacking in a coherent storyline. By this I mean the stories (non fiction) tended to jump back and forth. I would have preferred the book to stick to a strict chronological pathway and offer more information on the post Franklin exploring. The early part of the book was a delight in relating the early attempts at the Passage. I found myself at times during the narration skipping forward - not because of the Narrator - as occasionally the text seemed to drift and on an odd occasion off topic.

Narration was a delight. Crisp, clear and very listenable. Simon Vance is a top class Narrator.

Certainly worth listening to or reading through.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-08-19

Very good

A testimony to the courage of the men who risked their lives to find the Northwest Passage, and also to the stupidity of the very idea of doing so.