Longlisted for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Longlisted for the 2017 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
It begins with a chance encounter at the top of the world.
Fay Morgan and Nelson Nilsson have each arrived in Inuvik, Canada, about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Both are in search of answers about a family member: Nelson for his estranged older brother, and Fay for her vanished grandfather. Driving Fay into town from the airport on a freezing January night, Nelson reveals a folder left behind by his brother. An image catches Fay’s eye: a clock she has seen before. Soon Fay and Nelson realize that their relatives have an extraordinary and historic connection — a secret share in one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of polar expedition. This is the riddle of the “Arnold 294” chronometer, which reappeared in Britain more than a hundred years after it was lost in the Arctic with the ships and men of Sir John Franklin’s Northwest Passage expedition. The secret history of this elusive timepiece, Fay and Nelson will discover, ties them and their families to a journey that echoes across two centuries.
In a feat of extraordinary scope and ambition, Ed O’Loughlin moves between a frozen present and an ever thawing past. Minds of Winter is a novel about ice and time and their ability to preserve or destroy, of mortality and loss and our dreams of transcending them.
Ed O’Loughlin is an Irish Canadian author and journalist. His first novel, Not Untrue and Not Unkind, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. His second novel, Toploader, was published in 2011. House of Anansi published his third novel, Minds of Winter, in spring of 2017, which was long-listed for the Sir Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.
As a journalist, Ed reported from Africa for several papers, including the Irish Times. He was the Middle East correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age of Melbourne. Ed was born in Toronto and raised in Ireland. He now lives in Dublin with his wife and two children.
The final pages seem inevitable, as great endings must; the whole novel wondrous in its tone and reach. The title is from Wallace Stevens’s poem ‘The Snow Man,’ where we’re asked to behold ‘Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.’ It takes a good writer to take that on. It takes a great one to succeed.
Readers who delight in history and mystery mixed together will appreciate O’Loughlin’s shifting drifts of reality and imagination.
Minds of Winter is a remarkable feat of imagination, empathy, and research. Past and present merge to convey the polar landscape’s immense mysteries, and the lives of those voyagers compelled to seek answers in its icy expanses. Ed O’Loughlin is a skilled cartographer of both the Arctic and the human heart. What a magnificent novel.
Minds of Winter proves to be an exhilarating romp through the age of polar exploration . . . like the search for Franklin himself, Minds of Winter is a story of death and glory, loss and triumph and, ultimately, the mighty power of the imagination in the face of unrelenting struggle.
There’s an economy of language and grounding in physical detail that casts a clear eye on the spare, climatically determined human environment and makes us feel the kidney-clamping cold and lungs lacerated by ‘razor-blade’ air. Minds of Winter is a novel as much interested in unofficial as official histories, as much with people who slip through the cracks as with heroes.
A tour de force.
There will be few better historical novels published this year.
It is thrilling Boys’ Own, Hornblower stuff.
Hugely ambitious…[O’Loughlin] displays a prodigious imagination.
Minds of Winter is a haunting novel of the Arctic.
The writing is stupendously good . . . O’Loughlin manages beautifully.
[A] marvel of a novel.
Few novelists have the temerity to offer up mystery, suspense, adventure and a famous historical puzzle in a single novel. Ed O'Loughlin does so in Minds of Winter, and takes the reader to the ends of the earth in the process.
With each novel, O’Loughlin is expanding his interests and his imaginative grasp — the first sign of a genuinely talented writer. He is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting novelists currently at work.
Ed O’Loughlin’s Minds of Winter . . . may well be the Franklin novel to end all Franklin novels. Never have so many different narrative threads been taken up and twined together . . . It would seem a daunting task to connect so many historical figures in a single volume, something like trapping demons in a cursed box, but the talisman that O’Loughlin employs is deceptively modest: a single marine chronometer, Arnold 294, which showed up intact at a 2009 auction in the UK when it was supposed to have been issued to Franklin’s ships 164 years previously.
[A] masterly, richly researched, vastly ranging tale
[A] complex tale of historical intrigue about 19th-century polar explorers.