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The Solitude of Thomas Cave

Last night I finished the wonderful first novel by usual non-fiction writer, Georgina Harding, The Solitude of Thomas Cave. I was initially attracted to the idea of a man going to live in the middle of nowhere in a tiny cabin. I thought I could learn how she evokes the solitude as I'm writing a short novel on solitude also.
I really have enjoyed a good reading start in this first quarter of 2008 and found a few gems, and Hardings will now be added to that list.
Set in 1616, Thomas Cave, a sailor/whaler takes up a bet to spend a year on, what they think is the east part of Greeland. We are presented with a man craving for solitude. It is slowly revealed to us how Thomas had, before embarking on this particular whaling trip, lived in Denmark with his wife and cobbler father-in-law. However, his wife died giving birth to their son, and Thomas ends up leaving. True to the adage that you can never run away from yourself, Thomas Cave discovers that his wife's ghost is there, in the tiny Actic cabin with him. Apart from hunting bear, deer and other wildlife to eat, he also keeps himself busy walking, being at one with nature, praying and, obsessively so, making heels for shoes, a skill no doubt taught by his father-in-law. Cave passes the year and the old whaling boat picks him up, astonished at his survival, but find him a much changed man. Other tragedies unfold along the way, not so much for Cave, but for the Captain of the ship, Marmaduke.
The novel is divided into sections that keep their own integrity and the last section, in England, features a country steeped in useless superstition hiding under the veil of religion. What becomes clear is that this novel is a parable on how humans treat the earth and its creatures. It represents writing that is today desperately needed.
I can't praise this novel highly enough.

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