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Download The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage Audiobook, by Anthony Brandt Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.74 out of 53.74 out of 53.74 out of 53.74 out of 53.74 out of 5 3.74 (19 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Anthony Brandt Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2010 ISBN: 9780307712295
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The enthralling and often harrowing history of the adventurers who searched for the Northwest Passage, the holy grail of nineteenth-century British exploration.

After the triumphant end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the British took it upon themselves to complete something they had been trying to do since the sixteenth century: find the fabled Northwest Passage, a shortcut to the Orient via a sea route over northern Canada. For the next thirty-five years the British Admiralty sent out expedition after expedition to probe the ice-bound waters of the Canadian Arctic in search of a route, and then, after 1845, to find Sir John Franklin, the Royal Navy hero who led the last of these Admiralty expeditions and vanished into the maze of channels, sounds, and icy seas with two ships and 128 officers and men. 

In The Man Who Ate His Boots, Anthony Brandt tells the whole story of the search for the Northwest Passage, from its beginnings early in the age of exploration through its development into a British national obsession to the final sordid, terrible descent into scurvy, starvation, and cannibalism. Sir John Franklin is the focus of the book but it covers all the major expeditions and a number of fascinating characters, including Franklin’s extraordinary wife, Lady Jane, in vivid detail. The Man Who Ate His Boots is a rich and engaging work of narrative history that captures the glory and the folly of this ultimately tragic enterprise.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A robust new history . . . Brandt tells his story well . . . Achieves a modern synthesis between the hagiography of the old days and the more recent historical revisionism. Sara Wheeler, The New York Times Book Review
  • Brandt displays a keen knowledge of the social, historical and political movements that propelled England to undertake such a costly, ultimately tragic goal . . . Thoughtful, compassionate and meticulously researched, “The Man Who Ate His Boots” offers readers a vivid, compelling, ultimately heartbreaking history of Arctic exploration. Marc Covert, The Oregonian
  • Anthony Brandt's account of the fatal quest for the Northwest Passage is fascinating, horrifying and inspiring.  It is not just a great tale of heroic exploration, wonderfully told, but an epic voyage of discovery into the recesses of the human spirit. Piers Brendon, author of The Decline and Fall of the British Empire
  • Brandt is a superb and profound writer who leads us through a tale of such hardship you feel as if you've been aboard ship with them. It’s no small feat to use a bit of history to illuminate the future, but Brandt pulls it off. This is narrative history at its absolute gripping best. Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and War
  • A fascinating, at times thrilling, narrative. Roger K. Miller, The Seattle Times
  • A well-researched account . . . Brandt is at his best when he weaves in back stories of the politics and petty feuds that shaped much of the public perception. Henry Stern, Willamette Week
  • A splendid, gripping account of an astounding, unbelievable quest . . . What Brant brings to this mesmerizing tale is what only fine writing can deliver: fully realized sense impressions that make history come memorably alive, and an informed, sensitive analysis of historical events that puts them in larger context. Joan Baum The Independent (Hamptons)
  • History, fate, delusion and hope play out in the story of John Franklin, in particular during his last expedition to find the passage and map the Arctic in 1845. It’s one of those books that can keep a reader inside for an entire weekend. Susan Salter Reynolds, LA Times
  • Often witty in his approach, Brandt makes the absurdity of Arctic exploration and the quest for the Northwest Passage entertaining for the general reader. Highly recommended. Library Journal (Starred review) 
  • Brandt pens a colorful narrative full of gothic horrors, quiet daring, and petty personality clashes, and probes the social meaning of these odysseys . . . The result is a gripping—and sometimes appalling—tale of heroism and hubris. Publishers Weekly
  • Heroism tinged with scandal, high adventure beset by unbearable suffering . . . A sterling examination of a national obsession that tracks the finds as well as the futilities of more than 60 years of harrowing Arctic exploration. Kirkus
  • A rich and satisfying read, and a classic history of Arctic exploration. Laurence Bergreen, author of Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dan | 2/4/2014

    " I found it to be well-written, although certainly not spell-binding. It would've been nice to have a bit more mention of the first actual navigation of the NW Passage by Amundsen. I found the writing to get more interesting once Franklin's final voyage took off. I chose this over Pierre Berton's The Arctic Grail, because it was shorter, but I imagine it would've been a bit more entertaining. Not that this book is dry, just that I didn't find it to be much of a page turner. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steven Peterson | 2/3/2014

    " A fascinating book. . . . This is the story of those who tried to discover the Northwest Passage, a route to take ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is a story of folly. It is also a story of human courage. Many died to discover the elusive passage, based on the confidence of countries like England that it could be done. A story of courage tragically misused in many cases. . . . "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heather | 1/27/2014

    " As a whole, I'd say this was a good book, but it was a bit of a mixed bag. I flew through the parts describing exploration, the actual expeditions, and the larger-than-life individuals involved in these great undertakings. However, these interesting, enlightening portions of the book were broken up by lengthy descriptions of the British political, social, and military climate for each decade of 19th century. Those parts read a little more...slowly. But it ended on a strong note! Overall, it contained a lot of interesting mini-stories that I'm sure I won't forget soon. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna | 1/19/2014

    " The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I thought of this a number of times at the beginning of this book about the search for the northwest passage. Particularly amused by Barrow's constant assertion that salt water doesn't freeze! I thought the best parts of this book were about the search for Franklin's last doomed expedition - even Dickens makes an appearance! I generally like my "cold" books to end with survival - alas, not this time. Fascinating all the same. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Esther | 1/13/2014

    " I've read a bit about Arctic exploration in my time, and this book is a great representation of the genre. Brandt manages to portray the history of the search for the Northwest Passage and the subsequent search for Sir John Franklin without bogging down in technicalities or losing momentum. I love these stories not only because they are about Canada (the Arctic is as fascinating a place as you can find in the world), but also because they show so vividly what humanity can endure, and how ridiculously blind "civilized" people can be. I do wish someone would write a book about these explorations from the Inuit perspective, however. It is hard to imagine what they thought of the crazy "Kabloona". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joel | 11/30/2013

    " Those crazy Brits! Unable to get it through their thick skulls that the NW Passage wasn't a feasible navigation route (at least until global warming) and that just maybe the natives new a thing or two about surviving in the Arctic. The amount of suffering they endured is mind-boggling. This is a fantastic book, I was totally absorbed and couldn't put it down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scott | 11/20/2013

    " A thorough telling of the search for a navigable Northwest passage. Sometimes a bit lost in the geography but the maps helped. Also seemed a bit dry at times, but overall well written. It was amazing the stubbornness of the Admiralty in England...."it is there, I just know it, don't confuse me with the facts"...and how quickly expeditions were deemed failures by the men comfortably ensconced in England, while the explorers dealt with fickle and persistent ice, 70 degree below temperatures, and an extremely short season in which to explore. To be just feet away from a roaring fire in a cabin and it is still 16 below! These men were brave to say the least. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Diana | 11/19/2013

    " Loved the detail and nuances of this book. So much suffering, perseverance, bad decision making, and tragedy. And I've figured out which historical figure I'd want to be if given the chance -- Lady Jane! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina Dudley | 11/16/2013

    " End-to-end thrilling and informative, if you like exploration and freezing to death in the Arctic (which I do). I wish the maps were more easily referenced--I ended up reading with the atlas open on my lap--but now I know my Baffin Island from Melville and Beechey. Highly recommend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff Elliott | 10/13/2013

    " Finished this up on vacation. Brandt takes what could have been a very boring history and turns it into something that is both enjoyable and efficient. I had heard parts of this story before but this book really gives me a solid footing on a not very well known search for the northwest passage. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul Vilarino | 9/10/2013

    " another one of those "50 degrees below zero, ate the last of the dogs, hope to be home by Christmas" story's, where do these people get the idea that traveling in the arctic/antarctic is fun... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heleen | 5/9/2013

    " While I did start to feel a little stranded in the Arctic myself a few times, this was a really interesting read about something I knew nothing about. I'm fascinated by the courage of true explorers and this book delivers on being both informative and captivating. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sean Hanley | 12/29/2012

    " This book might have been a little too thorough for me. Took a long time to get to the juicy stuff, but nonetheless, it was very interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Don | 11/10/2011

    " Great book for armchair adventurers about the British and the artic. Trials, tribulations, dangers, and death are all things I prefer to read about rather than be involved with. Especially when it is cold. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Miranda | 8/21/2011

    " This was a really, really good read, and not even "for a pop history." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heleen | 5/24/2011

    " While I did start to feel a little stranded in the Arctic myself a few times, this was a really interesting read about something I knew nothing about. I'm fascinated by the courage of true explorers and this book delivers on being both informative and captivating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina | 5/11/2011

    " End-to-end thrilling and informative, if you like exploration and freezing to death in the Arctic (which I do). I wish the maps were more easily referenced--I ended up reading with the atlas open on my lap--but now I know my Baffin Island from Melville and Beechey. Highly recommend. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lisa | 8/3/2010

    " In fairness to this book, I did not get very far with this book because it read like a history book. The Goodreads review was good! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 4/6/2010

    " A little slow getting INTO this one, but an engrossing read once well in. "

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About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with over forty Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.