I read a lot about polar exploration, but this book is in a class by itself. It chronicles the life of Peter Freuchen, a Danish man who spent almost twenty years on expeditions to Greenland in the early 1900's. You normally think of explorers in a completely bygone era, but Freuchen's life (and adventures) kept going until 1957, so he sort of felt like a legend come to life. First he's exploring the Arctic, next he's rescuing Jewish refugees during World War II and writing screenplays in Hollywood. The Washington Post says,
Unlike so many polar explorers, men like Robert Peary and Frederick Cook, who seemed dark, driven egomaniacs, or Ernest Shackleton, the steely leader of men, the Freuchen whom Mitenbuler describes is a sort of golden retriever: a big, easygoing, indefatigable man always up for an adventure, always eager and sociable, remarkably untroubled and unreflective, despite occasional tragedy. Unusual during a time of colonialism and its righteous Christian proselytizing, Freuchen recognized the Inuit as complex humans with a deep culture perfectly adapted to their extraordinary environment, which he celebrated.
The author started with a thrilling life story, but his excellent writing really made this an exemplary biography. Also, who could resist that cover?