The Library of Ice by Nancy Campbell

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Water is one of the only elements that can exist on our planet in its solid, liquid and gaseous state. At the poles and high points of our world is where the ice, for the time being at least, still exists. It seems like a permanent, immovable substance, which it mostly is, but as the global temperatures climb then this cold heaven becomes more transient. Snow and ice are substances that have captivated Nancy Campbell since childhood and she decided that she wanted to follow in the literary footstep of other great writers and write about ice.

However this is not a travel book in the usual sense, she is as happy wading through the archives in the Bodleian library and looking at art as she is visiting Greenland and Iceland in the far north or reminiscing about the ice dance champions from the 1980s. She sees a shaman dressed in white and wearing antlers who is there to open the curling ceremony and learns in Scotland the correct way to make a rink for the sport.

To understand the ice, you need to think in term of deep time. Ice at the bottom of the glaciers in Antarctica has been there for thousands of years, and Campbell ponders the science of looking back through our planets climate history through cylinders of ice.

I really liked this book, there are contemplative and reflective moments as she seeks out these cold places of our planet, but also moments of warmth as she spends time with the Inuit in Greenland and understands how they have depended upon the ice for generations and the threats that they face. With her writing, there are points of lucid clarity like sparkling clear ice and other moments where the writing is diffused by the history of a moment.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    Good review. I really enjoyed this and remember it well even though I read it back in April last year

    • Paul

      Thank you, Liz. She is currently writing her next book, so looking forward to that

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