by Janice Marriott
Reviewed by Katharine Derrick
Teaching notes available at: http://harpercollins.co.nz/docs/teachernotes/9781869505721.pdf
I love Thor’s Tale! It was sitting on my bookshelf for a long time before I read it because of two unfortunate conclusions 1) it’s for boys and 2) the cover is off-putting (my version has a dull and muted cover)! As an author I should know not to be so judgmental but as a reader with a bookshelf full of books reading selections can be arbitrary. If you’re thinking along the same lines – get over it and read this book!
Thor’s Tale is about a Norwegian boy, Thor, working at the whaling station, Grytviken, on St George Island in the Southern Ocean. He is there at the time Ernest Shackleton stops for supplies, and longs to be an explorer, planning to stowaway on Endurance to fulfill his dream. Luckily for Thor his dream is thwarted and he isn’t on board when the Endurance is shipwrecked in the Weddell Sea. It takes five months for its survivors to claw their way back to St George Island and Thor is the first person to see their bedraggled forms return.
Marriott skillfully weaves an unforgettable tale based around the gruesome business of whale slaughter, and it is a fascinating and horrifying read. As with Menefy (see my review of Shadow of the Boyd) she is direct in her description of events, which adds to the sense of cruelty inflicted on such incredible animals. Thankfully, Thor is as horrified as the reader that he could be involved in such a distasteful industry.
Masterful and unexpected imagery adds to the tension as does Thor’s plan on how he will stowaway – will he make it or not is a question the reader asks themselves over and over again. It’s not often a story focuses on an unrealised dream and this gives a refreshingly different take on dreams and goals – sometimes failure is as important as success, and in Thor’s case probably lifesaving.
Even though this book is classified as junior fiction it is more than appropriate for teenagers as well. This fast paced adventure will be hard for any reader to put down.
Marriott, Janice. Thor’s Tale, HarperCollinsPublishers Limited, Auckland, 2006.
(Thor’s Tale was the 2007 winner of the Junior Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, an award well deserved.)
For more information on Grytviken Whaling Station:
For more information on Ernest Shackleton and Endurance:
For more information on the history of whaling:
There are more websites listed in the HarperCollins teaching notes.