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Biography & Autobiography Literary

Ice Diaries

An Antarctic Memoir

by (author) Jean McNeil

ECW Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2018
Literary, Global Warming & Climate Change, Polar Regions
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Aug 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2018
    List Price

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Winner of the Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize and one of the Guardian’s Best Books of 2016, now in paperback.

Ice Diaries is stunningly written and should be on the shelf of anyone fascinated by the globe’s final geographic and psychic frontier.” — The New York Times

“It's a discussion of the Antarctic as a physical landscape—its impact on the imagination—and an exploration of one person's inner world.” — The Chicago Tribune

British Canadian novelist Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent — Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. Ice Diaries is the story of McNeil’s years spent in ice, not only in the Antarctic but her subsequent travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard.

In the spirit of the diaries of earlier Antarctic explorers, McNeil mixes travelogue, popular science, and memoir to examine the history of our fascination with ice. In entering this world, McNeil unexpectedly finds herself confronting her own upbringing in the Maritimes, the lifelong effects of growing up in a cold place, and how the climates of childhood frame our emotional thermodynamics for life. Ice Diaries is a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.

About the author

Jean McNeil, a native of Nova Scotia, has lived in London since 1991. She spent the austral summer of 2005-2006 in Antarctica as the British Antarctic Survey/Arts Council of England International Fellow to Antarctica, and has since been writer-in-residence in the Falkland Islands, Svalbard and on a scientific expedition to Greenland.

Jean McNeil's profile page


  • Short-listed, Banff Mountain Book Competition

Editorial Reviews

Ice Diaries is stunningly written and should be on the shelf of anyone fascinated by the globe’s final geographic and psychic frontier.”— New York Times

“It's a discussion of the Antarctic as a physical landscape — its impact on the imagination — and an exploration of one person's inner world.” — Chicago Tribune

Ice Diaries artfully conveys both the magical allure and the deadly hauteur of this icy world that few of us will ever see.” — Toronto Star

“McNeil’s first-person narrative of her experience wholly absorbs. . . Most of Ice Diaries, however, reads like a novel. It’s a paradox: the best novels emulate real life and the best true stories emulate fiction.” — Maclean’s

“McNeil’s gripping book, a memoir of her stint as ‘the writer’ during an Antarctic summer, is a vivid depiction of the human community in the ‘granite quarry-crossed-with-a-penal-colony’ of a polar base camp. This sci-fi landscape is suffused with menace and foreboding but so, McNeil remembers, is home.” — The Guardian Best Books of 2018

Other titles by Jean McNeil

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