Monday, 16 March 2015

When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones

review by Maryom

Fired by the exploits of Scott and Shackleton, young Grace Farringdon dreamed of being a polar explorer, but she soon discovers that, although a child may be inspired by them, such dreams are not at all suitable for a young woman in the early twentieth century. Grace is not going to give up quite that easily though. Unlike her sister who mildly accepts the restrictions imposed by society and her parents, Grace plots an escape to university, with or without her parents' blessing. There she forms the Antarctic Exploration Society - a small, mismatched group of young women, it makes up for what it lacks in size - 4 members - by enthusiasm and internal squabbles. Defying convention, dressing in practical bloomers, they head off to Snowdonia for a mountain climbing holiday, and plan an expedition to the Alps. At first all is exciting and fun but under stress the differences between them in outlook and stamina become increasingly marked, and the ever-present tensions between the four build to dangerous levels.....
 For fifteen years, Grace has shunned all contacts, hiding in her childhood Dulwich home, guarding a secret but now, at last, maybe she's ready to speak of that fateful day on the mountain ......

 When Nights Were Cold is an absorbing tale of friendship, mountaineering and pushing oneself to extremes that crackles with tension throughout. The reader knows from the very outset that something dreadful has occurred, something for which Grace feels guilty but which she's desperately trying to deny. As the story is told by Grace, the reader only has her word for the actual turn of events and I wondered at times how much 'she' was trying to mislead the reader - but the ultimate revelation is short and shocking when it comes, and well worth the build up.
You don't have to know anything about Polar expeditions of mountaineering to enjoy this book  - it's as much about friendships and rivalries, and women's dreams of living a life as engaging and challenging as that of men. Grace and her three fellow society members may disagree about a woman's place in society, whether she should be merely a home-maker and child-rearer or take a place in the wider world of academia or business - they're even divided on the burning question of the day, women's suffrage - but they all want to live life to the fullest. Unfortunately fate has other plans...

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher -
Mantle (Panmacmillan)

Genre - adult historical fiction, 


  1. I'm not sure if you bought this when I did - as a Kindle Daily Deal - but I asked on Twitter and it came v highly recommended. Now I'm looking forward to it even more, when I get the time to read it!

    1. My copy was part of a bundle of books by female writers that I won last summer - and shamefully this is the first of those books I've got round to reading!.