Book Review – To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

My first read and my first review of 2017! Hope you enjoy.

Picture taken at Fireside Books in Palmer, AK

To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey is wonderful; absolutely delightful to read. I think it was even more special to me because I am from Alaska. I’ve lived here all my life and even though I haven’t been to the places the story travels through, I still have an understanding of the wilds of Alaska. This probably made the journey through Alaska even more interesting to me.

To The Bright Edge of the World is about discovery and adventure and is set at the end of the nineteenth century. Colonel Allen Forrester is on an expedition to Alaska,specifically the Wolverine River, with his small group of men while his new wife, Sophie, is forced to stay home due to pregnancy, and wait for him to return. She dreads being alone in the army barracks for that amount of time but her story is just as fascinating and full of exploration as the Colonel’s escapades in Alaska. The story is told through diary entries and letters from both parties.

One of my favorite features about the story, besides the format of diary entries and letters, is how Ivey captures the essence of Alaska. 19th century to the 21st century, Alaska is a magical wilderness that is nothing like the rest of the United States. This makes sense because she is also born and raised in Alaska, so has that understanding of what it is like to be here. She also definitely did her homework when it came to the information she consulted while writing To The Bright Edge of the World. To be able to express that mysterious and magical quality though is what is so enchanting about this book. Her writing made me think about what Alaska would have been like in the 1800’s, and what kind of changes were made when white men came.

I also love how Ivey weaves Native Alaskan mythology into the story. That is a very central part to Native culture and again, it made me think about what their lives were like back then and how they interacted with the land and the animals. One of the most intriguing parts of the story was how the line between animal and human was blurred. Some of the most fascinating passages are when these interactions happen.

The characters are beautifully written. Each one is well developed and completely their own person. Sophie Forrester is a wonderful woman who is written so well. She and the Colonel never fall into stereotypes you sometimes see in historical fiction (i.e. – overbearing husband, timid wife), and it was so refreshing. Sophie is a strong young woman, with a bright and curious mind, but is still sensitive and gentle, and also brash. Just like a real person! Her friendships with the other women are entertaining well rounded as well. Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester could easily be a stern soldier but he is also allowed the capacity of emotions. He loves Sophie deeply, and also cares for his men. He is not jaded, but relishes these new adventures and even though he is not necessarily and intellectual, the reader can tell he enjoys learning and experiencing new things. Both characters are wonderful in their own way, but also really wonderful when together. They are not half of one whole; they are two complete wholes that compliment each other perfectly.

Three of my favorite quotes:

  1. “He had never looked so alive; shadows dipped and curved along his outstretched claws, his fur and muscles seemed poised for life, and for a moment, the sun just touching the horizon, the marble seemed to be formed of translucent light itself.” (p.202 of Kindle edition)
  2. “No mosquitoes in this heat, so we will sleep for a few hours in blessed peace. We need not worry about wasting daylight. This far north & into summer, we travel through the night if we choose, as true darkness never comes.” (p.282 Kindle edition)
  3. “It is a grand, inscrutable wilderness. Never are the people here allowed to forget that each of us is alive only by a small thread.” (p.395 Kindle edition)

I highly recommend this book to Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike. It will open your eyes to the rough beauty of The Last Frontier in a whole new way.

Absolutely beautifully written.

Simply wonderful.

I’m so happy I read this.

Have you read this or Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


5 thoughts on “Book Review – To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

  1. Boy, I have to massively disagree with this. What you describe sounds like a neat book; but I literally could not get past the first 20 or 30 pages (I don’t even remember). I loved “The Snow Child,” and “To the Bright Edge of the World” was quite possibly the most boring book I have ever tried to read. I felt like I was reading a fake history book — harder to convince myself of its worth than a true history book.
    I know some books can get better as you go on, but I was so uninterested I didn’t even bother (also my mom got like 2/3 through it and said it was more of the same).
    Glad you liked it, for Eowyn Ivey’s sake, but I personally would not recommend that book to anyone. It’s seriously hard to believe we’re talking about the same book.


  2. This is a work of historical fiction, interweaving interesting story lines with actual historical events. As such, I would agree that those more suited to the twists and turns of such genres as sci-fi, fantasy, or the dystopian novel might find this book somewhat mundane. As with many a good movie, however, this work may be a slow starter, but in the end is a fascinating rendering of 19th century Alaskan exploration.

    Liked by 1 person

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