Antarctica on a Plate
By Alexa Thomson
Random House Australia 2003
Won from Heather from Based on a True Story
Alexa Thomson was a web designer working for a Australian bank when she happened to hear about an Antarctic expedition that was looking for a chef. Bored with her typical life, she decides to apply for the position despite the fact that the sum of her cooking experience was several seasons of working at a summer camp. Despite her lack of training, she is hired and Alexa sets out with a group of people she has never met to explore one of the last unknown parts of the world.
I thought that this book sounded like an interesting premise and it's a goal of mine to read more non-fiction. I have certainly never traveled to the Antarctic and the only cooking I've ever done is within the safety of my own kitchen! Reading this book seemed like a great opportunity to get a glimpse into a universe I will never have the chance to experience. And it was...sort of.
My first complaint about this book is that it is just not written in a very engaging manner. I never really felt like I knew the narrator or became invested in what would happen to her. Ms. Thomson manages to write almost 400 pages about her experiences without giving a great deal of insight into who she is or how she feels about the incredible opportunity she is given. And the chronology of the story seemed random. It gave me the sense of a teenager sitting in front of you and saying, "Well, one time we did this thing and then we saw some penguins and hey, did I tell you about the time we met the Russians?"
There is a lot of beauty and wonder in a place like Antarctica, but unfortunately Alexa experiences only a little of it. Most of her time there seems to revolve around complaining about the conditions, about the limited resources for cooking, and about her companions on this trip. This book doesn't do much to give its readers a sense of the majesty of the Antarctic and it certainly doesn't make them appreciate the men and women who make the incredible journey to explore it.
It's often said that there are too many memoirs being published lately. Memoirs need a compelling story and a likeable narrator, and they need to be written in a way that makes the reader eager to discover what happens. Unfortunately, Antarctica on a Plate has none of these attributes.