Read This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich Online


From the acclaimed chronicler of open spaces, Gretel Ehrlich, comes a stunning and lyrical evocation of a practically unknown place and people. Beginning in 1993, Ehrlich traveled to Greenland, the northernmost country in the world, in every season--the four months of perpetual dark (in which the average temperature is 25 degrees below zero), the four months of constant daFrom the acclaimed chronicler of open spaces, Gretel Ehrlich, comes a stunning and lyrical evocation of a practically unknown place and people. Beginning in 1993, Ehrlich traveled to Greenland, the northernmost country in the world, in every season--the four months of perpetual dark (in which the average temperature is 25 degrees below zero), the four months of constant daylight, and the twilight seasons in between--traveling up the west coast, often by dogsled, and befriending the resilient and generous Inuits along the way. Greenland, unlike its name, is 95 percent ice--a landscape of deep rock-walled fjords, glaciers, narwhal whales swimming among icebergs the size of football fields, walruses busting through oceans of shifting ice. In the far north, the polar Inuit--the "real heroes"--still dress in bear and seal skins, and hunt walrus, polar bears, and whales with harpoons. The only constant is weather and the perilous movements of ice, the only transport is dogsled, and the closest village may be a month and a half-long dogsled journey away. The people share an austere and harsh life, lightened with humor and the fantastic stories of Sila, the god of weather, Nerrivik, the goddess of waters, of humans transforming themselves into animals, and interspecies marriages. Interwoven with Ehrlich's journey is the even more remarkable story of Knud Rasmussen, the founder of Eskimology, an Inuit-Danish explorer and ethnographer who took some of the most hazardous and brilliant expeditions ever, including a three and a half-year, 20,000-mile adventure by dogsled across the polar north to Alaska. Like Rasmussen, Ehrlich learns that the landscape of Greenland is "less a description of desolation than an ode to the beauty of impermanence." Alternately mind-expanding, gripping, and dreamlike, This Cold Heaven is a revelation. --Lesley Reed...

Title : This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland
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ISBN : 9781841157221
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
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This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland Reviews

  • Bettie☯
    2019-05-05 00:32

    Description: Beginning in 1993, Ehrlich traveled to Greenland, the northernmost country in the world, in every season--the four months of perpetual dark (in which the average temperature is 25 degrees below zero), the four months of constant daylight, and the twilight seasons in between--traveling up the west coast, often by dogsled, and befriending the resilient and generous Inuits along the way. Greenland, unlike its name, is 95 percent ice--a landscape of deep rock-walled fjords, glaciers, narwhal whales swimming among icebergs the size of football fields, walruses busting through oceans of shifting ice. In the far north, the polar Inuit--the "real heroes"--still dress in bear and seal skins, and hunt walrus, polar bears, and whales with harpoons. The only constant is weather and the perilous movements of ice, the only transport is dogsled, and the closest village may be a month and a half-long dogsled journey away. The people share an austere and harsh life, lightened with humor and the fantastic stories of Sila, the god of weather, Nerrivik, the goddess of waters, of humans transforming themselves into animals, and interspecies marriages. Interwoven with Ehrlich's journey is the even more remarkable story of Knud Rasmussen, the founder of Eskimology, an Inuit-Danish explorer and ethnographer who took some of the most hazardous and brilliant expeditions ever, including a three and a half-year, 20,000-mile adventure by dogsled across the polar north to Alaska. Opening: The glaciers are rivers, the sky is stuck solid, the water is ink, the mountains are lights that go on and off. Sometimes I lie in my sleeping bag and recite a line from a Robert Lowell poem over and over: 'Any clear thing that blinds us with surprise.'My first dip in now and again of 2016 and for hours at a time I was transported, however every now and again was jolted out of my snow suit and high adventure to look at the writing: hate that when it happens.3.75* and now away to the sauna with me.ICapital of Greenland, Nuuk: 05:01:2016 - A visit to Greenland to see how BREXIT may work

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-04-27 02:22

    I never want to go to Greenland. English winters are quite dark and cold enough for me, and I don’t know if I could stomach seal meat at all, let alone for most meals and often raw. But that’s okay: I don’t need to book a flight to Qaanaaq, because through reading this I’ve already been in Greenland in every season. I’ve huddled onto a sled pulled by 20 dogs; I’ve gone hunting for polar bears; I’ve had a terrifying crash through thin ice. I’ve met Danes and Greenlanders of all ages and heard their legends and learned of their struggles to adapt to modern life. It’s a place that lends itself to silence and solitude, but also requires loyal partnerships between people and between people and dogs. I thoroughly enjoyed my armchair trek across this frigid island nation in the company of Gretel Ehrlich, who traveled here repeatedly between 1995 and 2001 and intersperses her journeys with those of her historical model, Inuit–Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen, whose seven Arctic expeditions took in the west coast of Greenland and the far north of the North American continent.Once a year or so I encounter a book that’s so flawlessly written you could pick out just about any sentence and marvel at its construction. (A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor is another one that springs to mind.) That’s certainly the case here. Ehrlich is always describing the same sorts of scenery, and yet every time she finds a fresh way to write about ice and sun glare and frigid temperatures. For the most part she absents herself, becoming just a photographic lens for transmitting the people and places she encounters. But we also get personal glimpses of the privations this kind of travel involves: missing the last plane of the season, not changing clothes for weeks, going hungry if a hunt fails, and the shock of blood on the snow when she steps off a sled to relieve herself and realizes her period has arrived. I’ll be looking into her other books for sure.Favorite lines:“The ice cap itself was a siren singing me back to Greenland, its walls of blue sapphire and sheer immensity always beguiling. Part jewel, part eye, part lighthouse, part recumbent monolith, the ice is a bright spot on the upper tier of the globe where the world’s purse strings have been pulled tight, nudging the tops of three continents together. Summers, it burns in the sun, and in the dark it hoards moonlight.”“So much in the Arctic attempts to obstruct vision: fog, snow, darkness, ice. But each element has its built-in clarity, an opaque shine.”“We, who were tiny dots riding a wooden splinter across infinity.”Further reading on Greenland: A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley (see my Foreword review) and The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine, an epic novel about an unconventional priest, set in late-eighteenth-century Denmark and Greenland. Also Sinéad Morrissey’s multi-part poem “Whitelessness.” You can read the first stanza of it here.

  • Michael
    2019-05-11 01:21

    Outstanding account of an American's experience of the environment and peoples of Greenland combined with chapters about Rasmussen's wide ranging trips to document Arctic cultures from 1910 to 1933. Great combination of reflection from personal experience and from historical and anthropological sources. Greenland, a Danish protectorate emerging into nationhood, has less than 60,000 people scattered among coastal villages in a huge territory, largely without roads. Unlike most Inuit societies of North America, there are still a significant populations here that persist in trying to live in traditional ways based on hunting and fishing. Ehrlich accompanied several hunting trips by dogsled for seals and auks and once for polar bears and observed attempts to harvest walrus and narwhale by kayak. She experienced both the endless night in winter and perpetual sun of summer, staying mostly with families of mixed Dane and Greenlander ethnicity. Rasmussen's seven trips included one that took him thousands of miles from Greenland all the way to Point Barrow, Alaska. Unlike most Arctic explorers who were egotistical and driven by hopes of glory, Rasmussen comes across as wonderful in his respect for the diverse peoples and cultures of the North. He understood that these people were gifted in living and surviving as individuals and in communal interdependent living. Ehrlich delves into spirituality of various Inuit people, for whom "everything is alive and every being knows about every other being and excel in keeping a right balance between humankind and the rest of the world."

  • Sophie
    2019-05-13 07:40

    This book gave me an outstanding view of Greenland and the traditional way of life of the Greenlanders as well as how their lives are changing with the arrival of modernity. I wasn't a fan of the writing, feeling that the author got lost in her thoughts while writing as she would while travelling on a sled, and there were a few repetition as if it wasn't edited. I liked however that she inserted in her narration a good chunk of Knud Rasmussen's adventures, an explorer of the early 20th century who travelled around the Arctic to meet the Inuits and Eskimos living there and collect their stories.

  • Chana
    2019-05-13 04:42

    My first reaction is an emotional one, a feeling of sadness at the loss of the traditional Eskimo culture, although I appreciate that there is an effort to keep the old ways alive and to teach these ways to the young generations. The author does not ignore the difficult aspects of the traditional life of subsistence hunters, which if the hunting is not good can mean starvation. Starvation can lead to the deaths of those who contribute the least and need the most, the children and old people, eating the dogs and even eating the people who have died. I don't know the extent to which the violence, domestic abuse and sexual abuse, which the author tells us are all too common today in the Inuit villages, existed in the time before the culture started to change due to alcohol and the introduction to modern life. The traditional life wasn't an easy life, that is without question, but it had beauty, organization, purpose and history. Now much of that is lost through a kind of purposelessness. As the author's friend, Hans Holm, states,"It is easier to be a loser now because they have exchanged some of the old ways for the Internet, the snow scooter, and, of course, the booze. So if you aren't technically trained or have only enough money for beer, then you have an excuse to fail. That was not possible before. Failure meant certain death. Now, too many people are not living in the old ways, making it with just a knife and a string and only eating seal."On the other side of the emotional spectrum, I find myself wishing to go to Greenland, to see and experience it, to ride a dogsled as the author did. I don't know about eating raw seal (apart from the kashrut issue), I would imagine that takes some serious getting used to. I could see myself having some problems; I'm too cold, there are seal guts and dog shit everywhere (actually the pictures of northern Greenland Inuit villages are very attractive), THAT'S the toilet?! I can't understand a word anyone is saying!! Nevertheless, my brain and heart are responding in a positive way to the idea of going to the northern Eskimo villages of Greenland. The author's descriptions created a longing in me for this. And looking at pictures on line made it even more so.There is so much to this book; politics, questions about the future for the Eskimo people, global warming's effect on the Arctic, the animal populations, global pollution. The writing is poetically beautiful, but it also historically, sociologically and politically interesting.Recommended.

  • Suzanne
    2019-05-09 01:43

    After spending seven seasons in Greenland, Gretel Erhlich imparts her experience and the history of this icy island in This Cold Heaven. I am torn with this review. Ehrlich is definitely a gifted writer:We flew up the sleeve of the 106-mile long Kangerlussuaq Fjord. The water was black and the mountains were brown, ending in broken snow-covered peaks. Streams threaded through the creases in three-billion-year-old rock, the result of roiling magma that cooled into gray.I would be carried away by her beautiful prose, thinking "Yes! I could see myself in Greenland!" only to remind myself that 1) it is nothing but snow and ice, 2) the temperature is 25 below zero, and 3) there is no sun at all for nine months of year. And despite all the lovely verse, Erhlich doesn't really share any charming or funny stories of her time there. Nearly half the book is about the early 20th century explorer Knud Rasmussen, taken from his journals and stories about this Greenlandic legend from natives. I don't mind learning about Rasmussen, but the level of her exposition should have been left to...well, a book about Knud Rasmussen.I learned a few things about Greenland that I didn't know. It's population reflects the Danish settlement and it's Inuit natives. Dogsled is a major mode of transportation, and the dogs are indigenous to Greenland, other breeds being banned from its shores. Greenlanders eat a lot of seal meat. The most humorous part of the book is the story of naming Greenland itself - the early Viking explorer Eric the Red named this island of ice and snow Greenland in the hopes of encouraging settlers. Imagine the horror in 985, when the first colonists arrived (after a dangerous and harrowing journey) to discover the fraud that had been perpetrated against them.I'm glad I read this book because it's always good to learn something new. Unfortunately, I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Maybe you need to be an anthropologist, or snow and ice lover, to truly appreciate it.

  • Jay
    2019-05-21 08:36

    Oh, Greenland. Someday I will get there and savour all the sights for myself. But for now I'll need to just live vicariously through books and authors detailing their adventures to the cold wonderland that is the Arctic. Gretel Ehrlich details the cold winterland of Greenland, the hunters and ethnologists that trek over the country in hunt for food, solace and the secrets it hides. Part self-discovery, part romance, but biography, ethnological study, geographical study and all around wonderful story. I wish I could say more, but this book just makes me want to go to Greenland all the more.

  • Paul
    2019-05-17 05:35

    Beautifully written, poetic prose from an author who is completely in love with Greenland and the arctic

  • Magda
    2019-05-12 05:29

    I learned that treeline can be a factor of latitude, not just altitude—it is a biological boundary created by the cold—and came to think of the treeless polar north as a mountain lying on its side.We flew up the sleeve of the 106-mile-long Kangerlussuaq Fjord. The water was black and the mountains were brown, ending in broken snow-covered peaks. Streams threaded through creases in three-billion-year-old rock, the result of roiling magma that cooled into gray, speckled gneiss whose surfaces were later pulverized by incoming meteorites. Now water pooled in smooth catchbasins, and wherever there was enough dirt to support tufts of alpine fescue, muskoxen grazed. Far above, something gleamed: it was Greenland's ice cap—a glittering inflorescence that rode the island like the world's one light.Greenland could not provide a colonialist vision of the pastoral. There were no plowed fields, dairy cows, or sheep. This was a lunar plain, skinless, as if one were peering directly at the bare flesh of light.A milky fog poured over the fingered network of fjords, mounding up until even the island tops were lost and a haze lay in front of the all-night sun in a single transparent veil. Farther inland, something rose: not nuna, earth, but the ice cap whose unseen tides broke rock and carved canyons.Ice mesmerized time. The horizon shifted from silver to blue. I knew it was only an illusion: the human mind groping for boundaries, but in no way did it hold me that night.Much like the silk roads of Asia, these "ice roads" had been used by the Eskimos for ten thousand years. It was only in the mid-1800s that this route became known as the Northwest Passage.This was 1923, the year Yeats won the Nobel prize in literature, Freud published The Ego and the Id, Miró and Kandinsky were painting, and Bartók was writing string quartets. By contrast, Rasmussen was traveling by dogsled among ice age peoples whose year was mostly winter and whose isolation would have been complete for at least another hundred years if it had not been for the search for the Northwest Passage, a European quest that culminated in the mid-1800s.Time slid.The ice had come in mid-October and now, in April, it covered the entire polar north. Like old skin, it was pinched and pocked, pressed up into hummocks and bejeweled by old and young calf ice rising here and there in beveled outcrops, hacked at by thirsty travelers such as ourselves in search of something to melt for drinking water.

  • Jean
    2019-04-26 05:37

    This is a quite descriptive and interesting book about living with local people during seven seasons visiting Greenland. Gretel fully participated in a life quite unfamiliar to most of the world; her descriptions are, um, excessively poetic--to the point of not adding to the description by being incomprehensible at times. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed her details of living and traveling in Greenland, especially when she visited places I have also visited: Qaanaaq, Kangerlussuaq, Iqaluit, and the beautiful green valley where the mummies were found. She did the full emersion thing, though, which I may have enjoyed as a younger person, but no longer. Travel by dogsled and camping on the ice are not for the faint of heart. She even stayed with people I met: Jens and his wife in Qaanaaq (well, it's a very small place--easy to meet the same people). I was there before Gretel: Jens did not have his hotel yet, but was talking about it. She rightly illustrates the pain of those loosing their native skills and way of life to modern incursions; it is so sad that we have pretty much destroyed an entire culture without a second thought. The tone of the book is more toward the joy of living, however, not the sadness of that loss.

  • Mmars
    2019-05-18 00:32

    Too bad a book that could have been so interesting was so disorganized and quickly became repetitive and tedious. I read about 200 pages and after a week decided the book would be much of the same and abandoned it. Ehrlich is clearly a gifted with the ability of describing nature and loved Greenland and its peoples. People who are absolutely fascinating. They survive by eating anything that moves and not wasting a bit of those creatures. Their culture is based on what western civilization may refer to myth, superstition or intuitive knowledge. And their society is based on survival. For example, sharing is essential. Ownership causes discord. They share everything from food to wives. Her narrative is interspersed with the writings of earlier explorers, predominantly those of Knut Rasmussen, a Dane, who traversed the ice mass in the 1920s. Though I have not read any of his works, I would suggest seeking them out. This could have been a powerful update on the possible effects of climate change and encroachment by western civilization. But instead she was seemed more interested in experiencing the past.

  • Loraine
    2019-04-30 02:38

    This started out as a 5-star read, mostly for the culture shock, my main reason for reading travel books. It is so “other”, so alien to me and my life, that at first my head was responding “bravo!” to all her experiences and observations. But somewhere around half-way it became more of the same-old, same-old, many words with nothing new, novelty worn off. I agree with other reviewers that this book needs serious editing, not only for the typos, but for the content. There was lack of continuity and several unanswered questions. Often the descriptions of the scenery were over-the-top frilly, like how many times can you describe icebergs and remain interesting? It reminds me of a personal diary that means much to the writer because all is known to her and not all needs to be written down. But for me it was just good. Memorable yes, but should have been cut to half.

  • Michael Wing
    2019-04-26 06:39

    This one took me about a week. The detail and information about the land that Knud Rasmussen traveled were incredible. If I were ever to go that far north, this book would go with me. Ehrlich is powerful because she ahs walked the walk, frozen, starved and smelled bad. The entire culture and customs are both beautiful and ugly, and the fatalism of the people would drive me nuts. Ehrlich's voice is true to the material, stating more than embellishing the setting and activity. The light and dark of the environment are powerful, as are the cold and danger. One weakness would be redundant thoughts about one's mood in those dark days, to the point reading becomes boring when it should be compelling, if given a few times. Long time to read if done in detial, and worth it.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-20 08:33

    'Obsessed' seems right. To the untrained eye, Greenland might be classified like a non-entity - a space rather than a place, and a forbiddingly cold and blank one at that. But Ehrlich's travelogue/ethnologue gives a taste of the appeal of the place, from her own lengthy stays there, and from the history of inhabitation and exploration of the far Arctic north. At times her style seems meditative, but at other times quite repetitive, and it is a slow if interesting read, infused with a great passion for an unusual locale.

  • Tim Martin
    2019-05-06 05:27

    "This Cold Heaven" is more than anything an ode, a paean to Greenland by one woman. I think in some ways she loves that icebound land as much as Lawrence of Arabia was reported to love the desert, and perhaps for somewhat similar reasons. Her book was full of poetic descriptions of towering icebergs, driving snowstorms, crisp nearly eternal nights, and sheets of mirror-like ice. Admiring the vast ice sheet covering the island, which she described as "a siren singing me back to Greenland, its walls of sapphire blue and sheer immensity always beguiling," she really put me there on that island. An American writer, she was drawn to Greenland again and again over the better part of a decade and in this book she chronicles her experiences there as well as much information on Greenland, chiefly about the Inuit people of that land, though to a lesser extent about some of its fauna, flora, geology, and climate. She recounts her travels - mainly by dogsled, but also by boat and helicopter - throughout this largest island in the world, a land under which 95% of it is still locked in ice, a land in which some say the Ice Age never ended at all.The stars of the book are the Inuit, both as a people and as individuals. Clearly a people she greatly admires both as a culture and as individuals, the reader will learn much about them, descendents of Asians who crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia perhaps 30,000 years, settling Greenland some 5,000 years ago. Their culture - stretching some 6,000 miles from Greenland through Alaska - is a surprisingly unified one, largely speaking the same language and telling the same stories. Indeed not only have they been very unified across distances on land but also across distances in time; many Inuit in Greenland are still essentially using stone and bone age technology (though one increasingly threatened by the arrival of modern technology and the Danish welfare state), even creating string figure art of woolly mammoths, a unique societal memory of a species extinct for many thousands of years.The Inuit we find are often a people of vivid contrasts and to us perhaps strange habits. Though they enjoy the summer time, which in their part of the world is short though one of unending daylight, they most enjoy the completely dark winters, something perhaps counterintuitive to those not native there; it is only in the dark time of the year that fjords and bays are ice, allowing long sled trips for hunting and for visiting friends. Clocks and calendars are nearly meaningless to the Inuit; Ehrlich often found it to be the case either in the unending night of winter (we also learn by the way that the Inuit word for "winter" also means "a year") or in the unending day of summer people would be awake at any hour, whether to fix dinner, socialize, or begin a hunt. One on occasion when a visitor remarked that a dogsled expedition should be gotten off to an early start, Ehrlich recounted how one of the Inuit laughed, stating that their day had more hours.Inuit food may appear equally strange to the typical American or European; they eat a virtually all- meat diet, the climate and terrain of Greenland completely unsuited to agriculture. Seal, walrus, polar bear, whale, dovekie, auk, and fish are the mainstays of Inuit diet, many times boiled or dried, sometimes eaten raw. One of the more interesting foods they eat is kivioq, a delicacy made from dead auks sewn into a seal gut and left to rot for two months. Though upsetting many Western environmentalists, Ehrlich does an excellent job of showing how the Inuit hunt for survival, not for profit or ritual. Many times she went on dogsled expeditions during which if a hunt for seal was unsuccessful dogs and later people would starve. Clearly the Inuit of Greenland hunt for food and for furs to make warm clothing, doing so with the greatest respect for the animals. Any money they made from their hunts went to buy necessities, such as fuel oil or pencils for children in school.Ehrlich makes much of the strange dichotomy of seeming cruelty and community. On the one hand during times of hardship, after their much beloved (and utterly important) dogs were eaten (as well as their sleds; we find that in the past that sleds were sometimes constructed of edible materials, with skins soaked in water and frozen into place for runners and even solid frozen chunks of salmon or seal flesh for other parts) the Inuit would turn to cannibalism, even eating their own children. The very old were often expected to die if they became a burden to their community, and orphans, particularly if outsiders, could often be quite harshly treated. Inuit parents she noted often laughed at their children's misfortunes as they learned to handle a sled or hunt, all in an effort to teach them survival skills, however cruel that might appear to an outsider. On the other hand though, the Inuit could be thought of the ideal Communists to some degree; no one owned land. When meat was available, it was freely shared to all who needed. Dogs were always fed first (though this was not entirely altruistic, as aside from kayaks in water this was their chief means of locomotion) and even widows in villages would share in the bounty of a great hunt. Ehrlich spends a good deal of the book recounting the adventures and travels of the ethnographer Knud Rasmussen (a Danish researcher who launched seven expeditions between 1910 and 1933 to study the Inuit people all over Greenland and west to Siberia) and his friend Peter Freuchen, clear outsiders who were warmly welcomed into village after village, whose lived were saved by Inuit, people who brought them into their homes, shared their food, their stories, their way of life.A wonderful book.

  • Robin
    2019-05-18 02:24

    Life in Greenland is a subject that most people know little about. After her first visit, author Gretel Ehrlich returned to Greenland several times, learning about Greenlandic culture, developing friendships, and experiencing both life in towns and extended time on the ice on dogsleds. Written in 2001, This Cold Heaven explores traditional life and how the challenges of modern times—from climate change to mechanization to toxic waste proposals from the US—impact citizens. In addition to the author’s own memoir, stories of the explorations of Knud Rasmussen, who traveled from Greenland to Alaska by dogsled in the early 20th century, parallel Ehrlich’s own explorations. Included are history and legends from each Inuit group that Rasmussen encountered. Like Rasmussen, Ehrlich also collects folkloric stories, and includes many, along with her own poetic musings. US artist Rockwell Kent’s Greenlandic life and legacy—a subject missing from his Wikipedia entry—is discussed, as is the journeys to the North Pole by Robert Peary and others. What impressed me most about this book is the relentless nature of Greenland’s climate and the impact that it has on its inhabitants. In smaller towns, buildings lack electricity, central heat, and running water—a serious challenge during months-long darkness. In contrast, months-long periods of sun impact circadian rhythms and make it difficult to sleep. Though the sun is constant, temperatures are too cool to allow laundry to dry. There is no privacy in the Arctic, the author says, and culturally there is no shame. Communal family beds or a privy just inside the front door are not unusual, and there are no bodily secrets on a dogsled. Faced with a life in which a small error can be the difference between life and death, Greenlanders are innovative and tolerant, simply not sweating the small stuff.Though better editing could have made the book more concise and readable, the writing style mimics the author’s experience in the arctic. Many times, things did not go as she planned because of weather. Storms, thin ice, and delayed flights caused much unplanned downtime and waiting. Greenlanders have a natural patience that most US citizens do not. A good map or two would have been an excellent addition to this volume. It was frustrating not knowing where towns were in relation to one another without consulting an outside source.Anyone who is interested in traditional and modern life in Greenland, or in its early explorations by non-natives, will enjoy this book. It’s not a fast or easy read, but is extremely informative. Women who like to travel and explore on their own (or admire those who do) will be particularly interested.

  • Dominique Kyle
    2019-04-30 00:16

    Life lived in community. Nothing private. She stops the sled to pee on the ice. Her period has started and the blood instantly freezes on the snow. The hunter with her looks round and laughs and says of the sled somewhere behind them - 'they'll think I'm a very skilled hunter, and I've killed a seal already!' This is a woman's book. She tells you things from a perspective you'll never get from those macho conquering men who are cutting off their own toes because of frostbite. The hallucinatory nature of the four months of continual darkness haunts you...This book is amazing, or would be if at least half of it was cut out and it was organised better. It's a confused and sometimes wearisomely endless switch back and forth between the author's own experience, and a detailed re-telling of the research of original anthropologists. Once you realise that parts of this book first appeared as essays in the National Geographic, the lack of continuity of either story or consistent style makes more sense. And yet...and yet...And yet it is the only book I would ever loan to another woman about the arctic. The first chapter reads like an extended poem. So dense with gorgeous imagery that you get literary indigestion and wonder if you'll cope with much more of this. Don't worry, it's such a random book it doesn't carry on like that. But every time I picked this book up, I couldn't put it down. It's a bit of a marathon, but I can't forget it, which is why I'm bothering reviewing it despite being able to only give it three stars.

  • Gloria
    2019-05-15 07:43

    This book was the story of a Gretel Ehrlich's adventures in Greenland & the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada. Her descriptions were rich & kept me reading. She incorporates the stories of the Innuit people, Rassmussen, Kent & other explorers. There was a lot of insight into their culture; their beliefs, dealing with life's challenges, starvation, and the cold weather.This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenlandby Gretel Ehrlich 4.05 · rating details · 223 ratings · 38 reviewsFor the last decade, Gretel Ehrlich has been obsessed by an island, a terrain, a culture, and the treacherous beauty of a world that is defined by ice. In This Cold Heaven she combines the story of her travels with history and cultural anthropology to reveal a Greenland that few of us could otherwise imagine.Ehrlich unlocks the secrets of this severe land and those who live there; a hardy people who still travel by dogsled and kayak and prefer the mystical four months a year of endless darkness to the gentler summers without night. She discovers the twenty-three words the Inuit have for ice, befriends a polar bear hunter, and comes to agree with the great Danish-Inuit explorer Knud Rasmussen that “all true wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of man, in great solitudes.” This Cold Heaven is at once a thrilling adventure story and a meditation on the clarity of life at the extreme edge of the world.(less)Paperback, 400 pagesPublished January 7th 2003

  • Lori
    2019-05-09 08:44

    Full review corrupted and not posted. :( impressions: weird, difficult to comprehend and difficult to stomach; conflicts & prejudices of modern and neolithic cultures; first word environmental concerns v. subsistence hunting of iconic animals; environmental justice for a people that creates no pollution but must deal with consequences of global fossil fuel and toxin use; survival of microcultures; Rasmussen's adaptation to Greenlandic neolithic culture leading to his success where others perished; repugnant survivalist practices (wearing pb, seal skins; cannibalism; death by exposure of vulnerable/liability people esp. infants, disabled, elderly) northern Greenland 500 miles from Pole, difficulty with author's repetition and styling; numerous typos exasperating; still worth reading for the dilemmas/ethical issues raised.

  • Jeremy
    2019-04-23 06:38

    On of the most interesting, layered works of nature writing I've ever read. By turns historical exploration, cultural anthropology, religious studies and old fashioned wondering in awe at the beauty of the earth, I found this book completely captivating. It's compelling - I promptly went out to find more to read about Greenland and it's people. I can also see why some people found it boring - Erlich enters you into a different world, quite unlike most people's every day. She's sharing a sparse, unpopulated landscape where time plays by entirely different rules. I loved it, but I can also see how it might feel like a lot of the same thing. I was particularly interested in her descriptions of Greenlandic culture and religion, and hope to find some indigenous and/or academic sources to find out more. Highly recommended.

  • Alice
    2019-05-16 05:18

    I'm glad it was her, not me! This is a fascinating book, not because I particularly liked the writing style, but because the life was so foreign to me. Freezing cold, nothing to eat but raw seal. In fact, a local delicacy is auk stuffed in seal, left for two months, then eaten. Yum!! :-p The book had a bit too much of the "noble savage" feel in places, but it gives a really good glimpse into a way of life that is changing drastically after thousands of years. It's amazing that people can live that way, and survive under such harsh conditions. I was struck by the observation of one native Greenlander when she lived for a time in Denmark; she said that she felt uncomfortable among trees, because it always felt like she was inside, closed in. She never got the wide open vistas of endless ice that she was used to.

  • Karen
    2019-05-17 08:41

    I am overjoyed at having finally connected with this writer's work. Turning to just about any random page I can find a phrase or a sentence that makes me want to hug myself and do a rendition of Snoopy's happy dance. An early example: "The Arctic's continuously shifting planes of light and dark were like knives thrown in a drawer. They were the layered instruments that could carve life out of death into art and back to life."It didn't seem to matter that I have never had any level of fascination with Greenland, nor that nature writing often puts me to sleep. Ehrlich's writing makes these things fascinating, but she also moves beyond her subject matter and creates a work of art, never losing sight of the human need for story. I cannot wait to read her other books.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-21 00:21

    The author uses such a poetic vernacular to describe an area about which most are "in-the-dark." It was difficult for me to follow her descriptions, as I currently lack any degree of comparison with the subject and found myself racking my brain to place her descriptions.After a few pages, I began leafing through read scraps - a paragraph here and there - and that seemed to give me a better sense overall of her experience.Though she did lead me to the journals of Knud Rasmussen, and I am hoping, should I delve into the publications, his descriptions of his trek will appeal to my sensibilities more.

  • Sienna
    2019-05-15 06:28

    I picked this up years ago at Leo's Art Books in Santa Fe (love!) and promptly devoured it. Ehrlich is perhaps best known for, um, being struck by lightning and writing about her experience. But this is her stand-out work. Evocative and emotional, heartbreaking and hallucinatory, the sort of book that surrounds you with subzero temperatures regardless of the time of year you're reading. Not without flaws, but highly recommended... especially if, like me, you can't read enough about the frozen parts of the world.

  • Aileen
    2019-05-02 01:37

    This is one of the best, if not the best nature writing book I have ever read. The prose is spectacular and the descriptions are so deep and thorough that you cannot help feel that you are alongside Ehrlich in Greenland. This book motivated me to learn more about Greenland, its language and culture and about life in Arctic Circle, which is vibrant, alive and so different from much of the rest of the world.

  • Altay Akgun
    2019-05-13 00:42

    I wanted to get some information on Greenland for a story I've been working on, on and off, for a couple of years now. This Cold Heaven provides a wealth of information on the history, culture, and people of Greenland, but more importantly, for my purposes, it offers an emotionally-involved perspective on what it's like to live in this barren and icy place.

  • Jennifer Talarico
    2019-05-12 05:19

    Enthralling read. Climate change and cultural appropriation in a historical context.

  • Salvatore Leone
    2019-04-27 02:41

    Interesting account by someone who has spent considerable time in Greenland. She writes very well and makes you feel her experiences, which makes for the best kind of non-fiction.

  • Aigner
    2019-05-12 04:38

    Absolutely amazing!

  • Jonathan
    2019-05-12 08:25

    I have fallen in luvst with Greenland (& Inuit culture) becuz o' this book (& author)... I hope ta go nomadic/native there part-time...