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Publisher's Summary

The Richard & Judy Book Club Pick. Shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Novel Award.

Follow the path to the freezing north. Follow your ambition. Follow your heart

Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of 12. Years later, in 1892, determination and chance lead her back to northern Greenland as a scientist at the head of a British expedition, defying the expectations of those who believe a woman has no place in that harsh world.

Geologist Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan. Yearning for wider horizons, he joins a rival expedition. Jakob and Flora's paths cross. It is a fateful meeting, where passion and ambition collide and an irresistible attraction is born.

The violent extremes of the north obsess them both: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows, and the strange, maddening pull it exerts on the people trying to make their mark on its vast expanses - a pursuit of glory whose outcome will reverberate for years to come.

©2016 Stef Penney (P)2016 WF Howes Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A supreme storyteller." ( Sunday Times)
"One of the best novels I have read for a very long time." (Richard Madely)
"A dazzling tale of romance and survival." ( Guardian)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • fieldfare
  • 10-15-17

Too long winded

A lot to enjoy here - I liked the main character Flora and loved the lyrical descriptions of the Arctic. However this book could have been reduced by a third and would be much the better for it. The same conversations take place several times which is very tiresome. Far too much and too detailed back story. Just too long. In the end I was glad to finish it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Úna
  • 03-10-17

Adventure!

What did you like most about Under a Pole Star?

The main character Flora is a brilliant creation.

What did you like best about this story?

I like the chronicle approach - building a picture of a whole human life from start to finish, I also loved the depiction of Flora's relationships with other people, particularly the Inuit people.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

One scene near the end made me cry.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew D
  • 01-16-18

Wonderful

Any additional comments?

Best book I have read in recent months - great evocation of the early arctic explorations, strong characters, gripping story. If the book has a weakness I think it is in the length and number of graphic descriptions of the main characters' sexual experiences. The author does write better than most about sex, but I thought there was a bit too much of it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Mclawz
  • 09-23-17

Disappointed 😔

I previous read and enjoyed Penny's other books, particularly the Invisible Ones which is one of my all time faves. So when I saw this read by Cathleen McCarron (who narrates Elenor Oliphant-another favourite) my hopes were high. I returned it after about 4 hours. It dragged on, the initial few chapters I liked but as it went on I lost interest more and more. I think this is a bit of a marmite book as some reviews are excellent. Penny describes thinks in lush detail and in that way, it's lovely to listen to. However I only get one credit a month and can't afford to waste it- sadly. McCarron's narration is spot on though, so it gets 3 stars.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Clare
  • 01-12-17

Excessively long and numerous passages of sex spoil an entertaining story well told

Such a shame! Lovely evocative passages describing the polar landscape, fascinating insights into Inuit culture, unexplained deaths and a love story running through it all. So many elements that could have made a wonderful novel. But I have never read a book with so much, such prolonged and such explicit sex. Of course it's a powerful component of the lovers' story, but a substantial edit of all of their sexual encounters wouldn't affect the reader's sympathy for or understanding of their story and would have made the novel a considerably better read for me.

I nearly gave up on this book four or five times. Certainly not recommended for younger readers...

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Ms. L. V. Hurley
  • 12-08-16

Not sure

Well I'm not sure if I did or didn't like this book.
I certainly wasn't rushing to finish it.
It felt like listening to soft porn disguised as a book about a travelling.
The constant sex scenes became boring and unnecessary.
Would of liked more about her actual experiences exploring the North Pole.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 11-25-16

Another memorable story.

After 'The Tenderness of Wolves' and 'The Invisible Ones' Steff Penny has won my trust as a storyteller. I would read anything she writes and there is lots to admire about exploration and hardship and the native Greenlanders but I was not gripped at the start.The story develops into a love story stretching from London and New York to the Arctic. It is written with a subtle intensity and completeness that includes some very graphic descriptions of intimacy. The power of these scenes and how they contrast with the society of the time is undeniable and is realised in the very satisfying final chapters when some of the tension is built on our knowledge of them. My favorite of Ms Penny's novels remains 'The Invisible Ones' but here is another excellent book full of interesting and well drawn people. It is almost a week since i finished it and I still think of the final scenes.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ms Kl Smith
  • 06-05-18

Gorgeousness

I really loved this. How very beautiful it is. On all levels. I've enjoyed every minute.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • S. Malvik
  • 01-19-18

Struggled a bit with this one

I really enjoyed Stef Penney’s other books and I really enjoyed the narration, but the story was heavy going.

Contrary to other reviewers I did NOT think there were too much sex. In a book of this many hours with several people falling in love, I think the 4-5 instances of sex was ok. And they were neither overly long nor descriptive.

I also in principle enjoyed the topic and the cultural knowledge Penney brings to any book she writes, but the story just somehow didn’t resonate. Not sure why. I did finish it, stuck with it, but for sure will not listen to it again.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • MISS S.
  • 01-17-18

should have been good, really boring until end

Could have been a really good story but way too long and over detailed/written... struggled to get through it, gets a bit better right at the end

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  • Jennifer R.
  • 12-02-16

Wonderful performances.

This was a beautiful and enthralling story....well written and very well told. Thank you.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Nancy
  • 12-17-16

Fine Ice

Narration was done well, some parts, excellent. Having two narrators helped define the story. I can't fault the storyline or the way it played out, I just felt that some characters deserved more and that the ending was a bit weak, otherwise a fantastic story and well worth it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lindy
  • 12-23-16

Exploration of love and the Arctic

Engaging, beautifully developed characters and descriptive passages. I didn't want it to end. Fascinating historical context.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Peter Bondy
  • 12-13-16

Excellent storytelling, disappointing narration.

An excellent book for those who love the days of great explorers and historical novels. Or love stories, iconoclasts and powerful women.

Cathleen's narration is excellent and I relished the chapters she reads. They are full of heart and energy and to me wonderfully interpreted.

Though definitely not a deal breaker, for me I sadly found Thomas's narration frustrating and distracting. His cadence and rhythm felt wrong. He would finish a phrase with the same pause and downward tone he finished a sentence.

Even with this complaint I still enjoyed the listen and would happily recommend it with that one caveat.