Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quickie Book Review: Ice Palace

by Edna Ferber

Growing up in the Alaskan city of Baranof, Christine Storm knows more about the territory of Alaska than most native borns. Her grandfathers both traveled to the area with hopes of making a name for themselves in the undiscovered lands. As Christine grows up in this ice-covered world, both her grandfathers try to win her over to his views on the future of the territory. Zebedee Kennedy -- known simply as Czar to his friends and enemies -- imagines dollar signs in his mind when he thinks of Alaska and its vast oil fields. Alaska isn't the proper place for a young girl to grow up; she needs to spend time in Seattle, in San Francisco, in Washington, learning about how decisions are made and how those influence a potentially prosperous future for Alaska. Thor Storm sees the value in learning about Alaska -- from its people to the fish and wildlife to the land itself. Nature provides everything that the people need, if the people will only look for it and learn how to use it.

As Christine grows older, the friendly feud between the warring grandfathers expands, ultimately coming to a head when Christine prepares for college. After years of exploring the peoples and the vast wilderness with Thor and learning about the wheeling and dealing performed by Czar to make certain that Christine has the best of everything, the ultimate decision about where her future lies comes down to a single incident in Washington, DC, changing the lives and the direction of everyone Christine knows.

To put it simply, Edna Ferber's Ice Palace reads as a love letter to the then Territory of Alaska. Through Thor's excursions with Christine, Ferber paints an idyllic portrait of the land and its people, seen through Christine's untainted eyes. Everything is fresh and new, the air crisp, the rivers and lakes full of wonders. And it's very easy to understand Christine's choices as much of the book follows her travels with Thor. Czar, when he appears, is the kindly curmudgeon but has no qualms about letting his need for power and influence show to the public as well as to those around him. Ferber paints him as a villain, and frankly, I fell in line with that and enjoyed the tale immensely. I don't mind that at times, especially when the story is as interesting as that in Ice Palace.

Ice Palace
by Edna Ferber
Doubleday and Company, Inc.
hardcover, 351 pgs

purchased book


Ur-spo said...

As an Alaskan lover, this sounds like a good book for me.

Harper's Keeper said...

THE Edna Ferber? When was it written?

Greg said...

It was originally published in 1958, and from what I've been able to pick up online, the novel played a part in Alaska's eventual statehood in 1959.

Harper's Keeper said...

very cool. Thanks

I suspect it has already made its way on Spo's reading list. I shall borrow it afterward.