Snow Widows

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What to expect

‘An elegant, densely textured work, like a tapestry … A welcome contribution to polar studies.’ Sarah Wheeler, Spectator

‘[MacInness] handles the whole thing with masterly skill…takes us to the heart of the hope, love, anguish and grief’ The Times

The men of Captain Scott’s Polar Party were heroes of their age, enduring tremendous hardships to further the reputation of the Empire they served by reaching the South Pole. But they were also husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

For the first time, the story of the race for the South Pole is told from the perspective of the women whose lives would be forever changed by it, five women who offer a window into a lost age and a revealing insight into the thoughts and feelings of the five heroes.

Kathleen Scott, the fierce young wife of the expedition leader, campaigned relentlessly for Scott’s reputation, but did her ambition for glory drive her husband to take unnecessary risks? Oriana Wilson, a true help-mate and partner to the expedition’s doctor, was a scientific mind in her own right and understood more than most what the men faced in Antarctica. Emily Bowers was a fervent proponent of Empire, having spent much of her life as a missionary teacher in the colonies. The indomitable Caroline Oates was the very picture of decorum and everything an Edwardian woman aspired to be, but she refused all invitations to celebrate her son Laurie’s noble sacrifice. Lois Evans led a harder life than the other women, constantly on the edge of poverty and forced to endure the media’s classist assertions that her husband Taff, the sole ‘Jack Tar’ in a band of officers, must have been responsible for the party’s downfall. Her story, brought to light through new archival research, is shared here for the first time.

In a gripping and remarkable feat of historical reconstruction, Katherine MacInnes vividly depicts the lives, loves and losses of five women shaped by the unrelenting culture of Empire and forced into the public eye by tragedy. It also reveals the five heroes, not as the caricatures of legend, but as the real people they were.

Critics Review

  • ‘I am reading it with fascination. It’s magnificent. [Katherine MacInnes has] an almost supernatural ability to conjure up the past.’ Sue Limb: co-author of Captain Oates: Soldier and Explorer

    ‘The story of the five women waiting at home for Captain Scott and his doomed polar party is naturally occluded in tragedy. In this engaging book Katherine MacInnes for the first time presents them – two mothers at the outset, and three wives – as distinct individuals, separated one from the other by class, education, faith and temperament …An elegant, densely textured work, like a tapestry … A welcome contribution to polar studies.’ Sarah Wheeler, Spectator

    ‘[MacInness] handles the whole thing with masterly skill…takes us to the heart of the hope, love, anguish and grief’ The Times

    Praise for Katherine MacInnes’s biography of Oriana Wilson, Woman with the Iceberg Eyes:

    ‘Ory Wilson is an unknown but central figure in the whole Scott story, and a gripping woman in her own right. I have always considered her unjustly neglected’ Sara Wheeler, author of Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard

    ‘This beautifully written book reveals the life of an explorer’s wife and scientist in her own right’ Cotswold Life

    Praise for Katherine MacInnes’s play, Life & Death & Mrs Bill:

    ‘A story of profound love, courage, faith and stoicism in adversity which has inspired many’ Dr D.M. Wilson FZS, Great-nephew of Edward and Oriana Wilson

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