books The Birthday Boys By Beryl Bainbridge – Mariahilff.de

In this stunning novel, award winning author Beryl Bainbridge offers a fictionalized account of the doomed Antarctic expedition led by Captain Scott inAt once hair raising and beautiful, here is an astonishing tale of misguided courage and human endurance The Birthday Boys of the title are Scott and four members of his team, each of whom narrates a section of the book As the story progresses the reader discovers that these men may not be reliable reporters Their cocky optimism is both ghastly and dangerous Brought up to despise professional expertise, their enterprise is lunatic, amateur and gentlemanly Beryl Bainbridge makes it hauntingly clear the men are fatally doomed in their bravery, the very stuff of heroes Captain Scott s poignant trek becomes, in this remarkable novel, an historical event which prefigures the terrible new world dawning in Europe It was an inept rehearsal for the carnage of the first world war, the ultimate challenge for the arrogant generals who shared Scott s skewed notion of courage that led men qualmlessly into harm s way Subtle, poetic and unforgettable, The Birthday Boys is impossible to read without experiencing that magical shiver up the spine which is caused when great writing touches the soul


10 thoughts on “The Birthday Boys

  1. LeAnne: GeezerMom LeAnne: GeezerMom says:

    ON SALE THIS WEEK FOR 1.99 Trust me the most gorgeous, cold weather book you can find This lady could write No spoilers When their glassy, yellow bodies were found frozen solid some eight months later, the men s journals and letters to their mothers were quietly removed from the still intact tent Its poles were taken down, and the canvas collapsed to cover them like a shroud Antarctic rocks were stacked on them in a cold cairn, and all of England wept This information is not in the bo ON SALE THIS WEEK FOR 1.99 Trust me the most gorgeous, cold weather book you can find This lady could write No spoilers When their glassy, yellow bodies were found frozen solid some eight months later, the men s journals and letters to their mothers were quietly removed from the still intact tent Its poles were taken down, and the canvas collapsed to cover them like a shroud Antarctic rocks were stacked on them in a cold cairn, and all of England wept This information is not in the book, but knowing it gives it a proper place in our minds.TIDBIT My friend Laura attended an author event with Donald Ray Pollock and noted that among the books he found as highly impactful on his writing career, this obscure little novel was listed The final chapter left a huge impression with Pollock and obviously, with me too.When a reader starts a book likeInto the Wildor evenA Fault in Our Stars,he knows things are not going to end well I confess that this doomed expedition to Antarctica was something I vaguely had a notion of but honestly couldn t even recall the name of its leader But then again, I m an average, somewhat ignorant American.This incredible book a short mesmerizing piece of historical fiction was written 25 years ago by an Englishwoman who was seemingly a cross between Ann Patchett and Jodi Picoult gorgeous writing crossed with prolific publishing Beryl Bainbridge was a quirky, outspoken woman with a life size statue of Jesus in her living room along with a stuffed bison she named Eric The Beatles once partied at her house for three days and nights solid, causing her to take her two young children and stay with the neighbors until the boys had had their fill.When she wrote The Birthday Boys, everybody in England already knew the story well Newspapers, magazines, and books aplenty had already dissected this ill fated race to the South Pole The expedition leader, Robert Falcon Scott called Con by his friends , was largely eviscerated for errors in judgement that endangered his men and took lives That he would even choose to return to Antarctica the 1910 exploration was his second there after having been in its unrelenting cold for three years is way beyond my reckoning Think about how cold we feel today with neoprene sock liners, Goretex boots, and literally space age protection against the elements What did they have from 1901 through 1912 Leather The lowest temperatures measured were hold on to your long johns minus 77 degrees Fahrenheit 60 Celsius Falcon Scott was after the science of the place and wanted to go back.I think it says something about him that his crew was made up in part of repeat offenders By that, I mean that the young men who d been along for the first scientific expedition from 1901 to 1904 signed up a second time When people say they d follow someone to the ends of the earth, they are merely echoing the feelings of 36 year old Taff Evans who had, in the 1901 trip south come close to death, dangling inside a crevasse along with Capt Scott Taff, a heavy partying petty officer adored Scott and always referred to him as the Owner.Beryl Bainbridge writes this passage about their near death experienceI was scared for my life, but at the same time I couldn t help noticing how bright everything was, the ice not really blue at all but shot through with spangled points of rosy light so dazzling that it made me crinkle up my eyes as though I had something to smile about, and there was a shadow cast by the Owner s shoulder that washed from seagreen to purple as he twisted in his traces The author writes an entire chapter from the perspective of Taff the big, hardworking party boy, and his style of speaking is something that is part him from his letters and part author His voice, by way of grammar or his habit of noticing pretty little things about the world around him, was clearly different from the other four whose chapters are also here Until I opened the book and started poking around the internet for background facts, I didn t realize that there were a total of five men including sweet Taff that split from the large main group to attempt reaching the South Pole before a Norwegian crew The five of them died sorry about the spoiler if you are as ignorant of history as I am on their trudge back from the pole, and Beryl s five chaptered book is a way of giving each of them a voice from the ice.Because Con Scott has been disparaged over the past century, I was really interested in how his voice would be portrayed He had a thick journal with him when his remains were found, along with letters to his wife and others His affection for the men and his frustration with having to balance science with the race are heard in Beryl s words for him but taken from his own writing He has a conversation with Oates another of the five voices that is a bit of foreshadowing of their deaths The ponies they had brought along to haul the supply sledges were not doing well, despite the fact that other little horses had fared extremely well in an exploration by Shackleton Scott was intent on saving the ponies, especially an old one named Weary Willie Scott and Oates got to talking about survival in the cold, and specifically about an earlier Arctic expedition where some of the survivors, soon to be dead anyway, were forced to eat their deceased comrades to stay alive Oates argued against instinct for survival and said that he would put a bullet in his head Scott, although a firm and fearless leader, was known to be emotional He was brought to tears easily He offered Oates the promise of an easier, gentler way out, God forbid it should ever come to that As we know that his life did end, read for yourself as to how they said their eternal goodnightsIn the unlikely event of its being necessary, I said, we haveup to date methods Bill has opium and morphia Damn it, no, he said I want to be in control I don t want to drift into death I am a scientist by training and by 20 years of experience Scott s dedication to science touched me He knew the trip was dangerous, as did the men Like the astronauts and cosmonauts who circle above us today, they believed that the risk was worth it It galls me a bit that he has been vilified so much The expedition itself was never intended as a race to the South Pole, but as a series of carefully made scientific experiments much like Scott s first trip to Antarctica Regardless of the race for the pole, offshoot mini expeditions were conducted as planned after they made landfall in 1910 and hit their primary base camp Scientists were dispatched out in smaller parties to study geology, meteorology thus we know about the 77 degrees , physics, and biology In order to facilitate later expeditions, Capt Scott was also testing the efficiencies of using new fangled polar motor cars, dog teams, and the aforementioned sturdy ponies He had to privately raise all of the money for the men, equipment, and supplies, and when he was about to launch was informed that guess what A Norwegian expedition to the North Pole truly just racing to plant the country s flag had done an about face because they d been beaten in the Arctic Before Scott and his men even left British soil, the Norwegian leader had fired all his scientists and loaded up on 100 sled dogs so he could make a dash to the South Pole The Norwegian blew off all and every experiment just for bragging rights to set his flag there first Scott was, at the 11th hour, challenged with beating him on top of completing all the pure science that was his primary aim.Before his dash for the pole, three of Scott s team took a side trip to go after the eggs of Emperor penguins on the coast It was believed in the early 1900s that these particular embryos would show the link between the evolution of birds and of reptiles You know how today paleontologists will tell you that dinosaurs wereclosely related to birds than, say, alligators These scientists were trying to glean that sort of information by half crawling in total darkness Antarctic winters are night time all day long, remember , hauling sledges, and camping in blizzards for WEEKS on end in temperatures that were 70 something below zero Just to gather five lousy eggs that might unravel evolution These men chose to go they were not ordered.How far would you crawl for science These guys survived this little side trip, but were exhausted and punch drunk Beryl writes this when one of them seems entirely happy to be alone at the bottom of the world, lying in the icy black for a rest, watching the aurora borealisEver obliging, Cherry croaked, What are you doing here, Uncle Bill And he replied, I ve never liked crowds , and then we all squealed, because we could see the humour of it three ragged, frosted figures lying on their backs in the darkness of nowhere, emitting cries like stuck pigs as God s own paintbrush splashed among the stars Beryl writes gorgeously, as shown in these excerpts, but one last thing about The Birthday Boys might intrigue you I wondered how a highly popular Englishwoman author came to write a work of historical fiction about a well documented and failed trip that happened 80 years earlier Seriously, what else was there to write about after eight decades It turns out that she had just penned a book about JM Barrie the guy who wrote Peter Pan In researching Barrie, Beryl discovered that he had been really good friends with Captain Falcon Scott Wait A seemingly egotistical polar explorer who led his men to death and a playwright Friends Their kinship seemed odd to her until she started reading Scott s journal and his letters home Then she read the letters written by his crew Suddenly the lost boys from Peter Pan s Neverland seemed to take on life And death Those lost boys were, in Beryl s mind, the birthday boys of Antarctica.Five stars On my favorites shelf It is hard to find, but one can buy it for one cent fromwith 3.99 shippingI left him and went up on deck to look out at the slithering city, its glitter of street lamps fizzy under the rain There s something wrong about a ship in dock, something pathetic, like a bird fluttering in a spill of oil The Nova was tethered to her berth by ropes and chains, caught in a pool of greasy water I could feel her shifting under my feet, tugging to be free I don t think any of us were in our right minds None of us will forget that nightmare scene the ice chunks heaving in the black water amidst the bucking whales, Birdie grotesquely riding that dying pony, Titus swinging the pickaxe against a sky the colour of blood And then she embraced me, and I thought it was her tears that rolled down my cheeks until the pain in my legs jerked me into consciousness, and I realised it was my own eyes that spilled with grief


  2. Diane Barnes Diane Barnes says:

    This fictional account of Robert Scott s doomed expedition to the South Pole is chilling no pun intended because you know how it ends It is told from the viewpoint of the 5 men from the crew who made the final trek from the camp to the pole, only to find that Roald Amundsen had gotten there before them Heartbreaking to say the least, it read almost like a horror story Fighting the elements, hunger, and exhaustion with nothingthan courage and character, these men are finally beaten by This fictional account of Robert Scott s doomed expedition to the South Pole is chilling no pun intended because you know how it ends It is told from the viewpoint of the 5 men from the crew who made the final trek from the camp to the pole, only to find that Roald Amundsen had gotten there before them Heartbreaking to say the least, it read almost like a horror story Fighting the elements, hunger, and exhaustion with nothingthan courage and character, these men are finally beaten by bad decisions and poor planning That s where the horror comes in, because it could have been a different story had Scott simply listened to those of his crew who knewthan he did, instead of insisting on total obeisance to his role as leader The final chapter was incredible, and the closing scene was powerful in it s understatement


  3. Camie Camie says:

    I think I turned this 5 star read into a 3 star read for myself by not doing a little research before I started it This is a fictionalized account of a doomed expedition to Antartica led by Captain Scott in 1912, told in 5 parts by various team members Unfortunately our various narrators are a bit unreliable though extremely interesting However by not knowing the facts of the true story, I found it a little confusing It s a short book that gets much better by the end which is when I started I think I turned this 5 star read into a 3 star read for myself by not doing a little research before I started it This is a fictionalized account of a doomed expedition to Antartica led by Captain Scott in 1912, told in 5 parts by various team members Unfortunately our various narrators are a bit unreliable though extremely interesting However by not knowing the facts of the true story, I found it a little confusing It s a short book that gets much better by the end which is when I started to figure it out One s dilemma here is whether to study first and perhaps spoil the end of the story, or study after to makesense of the beginning chapters Either way a worthy read


  4. Laura Laura says:

    I have to admit most of the historical fiction that I have read is related to WWII This historical fiction novel was a nice change It is a story told by 5 points of view about a south pole expedition Each account is unique and gives a different account of the same journey This is one talented author I highly recommend It is very engaging even knowing what the outcome will be Note to self One of the books Donald Ray Pollock mentioned as an inspiration,specifically the death of Oates I have to admit most of the historical fiction that I have read is related to WWII This historical fiction novel was a nice change It is a story told by 5 points of view about a south pole expedition Each account is unique and gives a different account of the same journey This is one talented author I highly recommend It is very engaging even knowing what the outcome will be Note to self One of the books Donald Ray Pollock mentioned as an inspiration,specifically the death of Oates


  5. Wyndy Wyndy says:

    Trust me, I ll never set foot in the South Pole after reading this book but doubt I ll ever forget the voices of these five men who did I dare say that you think you ve known what it is to be coldBut you can t knowNot until you ve been south To be cold is when the temperature sinks to 60F andthe snot freezes in your nostrils and your breath snaps like a fire cracker on the air and falls to ice in your beard Petty Officer Edgar Evans, June 1910any doubts I may h Trust me, I ll never set foot in the South Pole after reading this book but doubt I ll ever forget the voices of these five men who did I dare say that you think you ve known what it is to be coldBut you can t knowNot until you ve been south To be cold is when the temperature sinks to 60F andthe snot freezes in your nostrils and your breath snaps like a fire cracker on the air and falls to ice in your beard Petty Officer Edgar Evans, June 1910any doubts I may have had about coming south again have evaporated like snow under sunlight After five weeks at sea I m fit as a fiddle and have actually put on weight It s a blessing to be driven by hard work, because one never feels the want of exercise Dr Edward Wilson, July 1910 There is nothing on earth so vast, so glorious, as the southern heavens In the ordinary world a man measures himself against the height of buildings, omnibuses, doorways here, scale blown to the four quarters, he d be a fool not to recognize he s nosignificant than a raindrop on an ocean Captain Robert Falcon Scott, March 1911 I was speaking nothan the truth, having always found that willpower overcomes all adversities One just has to believe that it s within one s spiritual domain to conquer difficulties That is not to say that I don t recognize there has to be a time to submit, possibly a time to die, merely that I d never yet been taken to the brink Lt Henry Bowers, July 1911 Then Teddy called for three cheers and Scott gave the order to start With what great excitement we set off, what optimism Captain Lawrence Oates, March 1912This gem of historical fiction is based on the true events of Captain Robert Falcon Scott s Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica in 1910 1913 and his race to be the first to reach the South Pole Most of us already know the outcome of this tragic journey, but reading about it from the individual perspectives of these five explorers, each soon to die, makes the story very personal and evenheartbreaking Absolutely brilliant writing that vividly captures the harsh, spectacular polar environment and the minds and souls of these brave, pioneering men Recommend to all


  6. Zuberino Zuberino says:

    When you think of the most famous words uttered in the heroic age of exploration, two lines stand out from the rest One is Stanley with his greetingDr Livingstone, I presumeon the shores of Lake Tanganyika The other is Titus Oates walking out to his death in the middle of a polar storm in March 1912 with these deathless wordsI m just going outside and may be sometime What happened to Captain Oates in the moments after he emerged from the tent into the whiteness of Antarctica for the la When you think of the most famous words uttered in the heroic age of exploration, two lines stand out from the rest One is Stanley with his greetingDr Livingstone, I presumeon the shores of Lake Tanganyika The other is Titus Oates walking out to his death in the middle of a polar storm in March 1912 with these deathless wordsI m just going outside and may be sometime What happened to Captain Oates in the moments after he emerged from the tent into the whiteness of Antarctica for the last time forms the final painful paragraphs of Beryl Bainbridge s terrific novel When The Birthday Boys first came out in 1991, I remember it was greeted with a helluva lot of critical acclaim A few years later, I managed to get my mittens on the book, but for some reason I failed to progress much beyond the first chapter At some level, however, I am glad of it now because back then my reading was, would have been rather callow and superficial 15 years or so down the road, I have a much clearer understanding of certain matters that form the warp and weave of the book but that are not really explicitly spelled out In particular, these would be the English class system that irrevocably separated working class men like Petty Officer Evans from their supposed superiors , and the hidebound set of Victorian values that these superiors often clung to, gentlemen such as Dr Wilson, Birdie Bowers and Captain Scott himself This short novel then recounts the story of Scott s second and last polar journey, the ill fated Terra Nova expedition between 1910 and 1912, the one that made the very words Captain Scott synonymous with tragedy, heroism and self sacrifice Except that it becomes pretty clear early on that Bainbridge hews closer to the Roland Huntford school of thought, and paints a fairly scathing portrait of the doomed hero , showing him up for the prissy, stubborn, thin skinned incompetent that he really was Revisionist historical fiction one might call it, but it s impeccably researched and reads incredibly believable, uncannily true all the way through The book is also a model of organization and a miracle of empathy and imagination, a small yet perfectly formed example of the novelist s art Bainbridge proves herself a formidable ventriloquist, dividing up her narrative into five chapters, each chapter narrated by one of the men who eventually made it to the Pole and who died on the return journey, cold, hungry and desperately short of safety.And so Chapter 1 is narrated by the Welshman Taffy Evans who kicks off the story in south Wales in the summer of 1910, describing the preparations preliminary to the voyage, the round of parties and civic receptions thrown in honour of the officers and the men, the intimate leave takings and the hollering, hallooing farewell of the crowds It s all very prelapsarian, all in the full flush of that hat throwing Edwardian innocence two years before the Titanic, two years before the disaster that befell Scott s party, and a full four years before the mass slaughter of the Great War got underway Still, Taffy Evans no nonsense narrative voice is a thing to marvel at taciturn and pragmatic, the salt of the working class who lets his actions do the talking and has little time for sentiment This extraordinary act of channeling sets up the rest of the book Dr Wilson, Scott s friend and ally, takes over in Chapter 2, describing the sea voyage down to the southern latitudes An idealistic man of learning, a woolly dreamer if one were to be unkind, he looks past Scott s manifest follies and character failures and chooses to look at the good in the man he calls Con The devoted Taffy calls Scott the Owner The man himself gets his say in Chapter 3 His whiny blame shifting and pompous finger pointing takes up the next 40 odd pages and grates throughout He really must have had some force of personality, a kind of inner magnetism to induce so many to follow in his suicidal footsteps BB sheds some charitable light on this aspect in the last chapter through the normally jaundiced eyes of Captain Oates The catalogue of Scott s stubborn incompetence dereliction even , often in the teeth of opposition from those around him, makes for sad reading using ponies instead of dogs to begin with, when Nansen and everyone else had urged otherwise, the ponies being not just dumb beasts but dumb useless beasts past their sell by date bought by none other than Scott s own brother in law sentimental attachment to and foolish concern for these same ponies long after their limited utility had been exposed to all, added to Scott s reactionary contempt for the dogs, even as Amundsen himself was riding dog teams all the way to the Pole and glory from the other side of Antarctica Scott s persistent, arrogant self justification sure, there was bad luck and bad weather, but the bulk of it as the master planner Amundsen proved was down to Scott s worship of plucky amateurism and harsh Victorian discipline, all the while playing dice with the lives of his fellow men When he sneers at Amundsen you can call it undigested jealousy, but pretty soon you realize that Scott sneers at anyone who doesn t kow tow or see eye to eye with him Such an invincible superiority complex mixed up with a penchant for serial bungling could only ever be a recipe for disaster in the unforgiving climes of Antarctica Chapter 4 is luminous stuff Birdie Bowers account of one of the most singular adventures ever undertaken by man, Bowers, Wilson and Cherry Garrard s trek to Cape Crozier to collect Emperor penguin eggs, forever immortalized in C G s epic work The Worst Journey in the World This book too I have a personal relationship with A sunny day in the late 1990s, I was wandering about Motijheel in Dhaka when I stepped into the office showroom of the publishers UPL Sitting behind the glass of a display case was a fat Penguin Travel book with a stark cover and a most curious title The name of the author was, if anything, evencurious Apsley Cherry Garrard I had found it at last Alongside Lawrence s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, this was one of my two touchstones of those years, epics of adventure, heroism and the limits of human endurance The book cost 400 takas, if memory serves I didn t have the dough with me then, so I came back the next day and bought it and started to read it that same night, snug in the warmth and comfort of my bed in dusty, tropical Nakhalpara Ah, what times we had Bowers evocation of the polar landscape, of the stormy nights and the spangled skies makes this my favorite chapter of the book When one imagines the very unlikelihood of it, three men plodding across the surface of Antarctica s immensity in utter darkness, their way lit only by a single candle, relentlessly battered by blizzards and temperatures unheard of all to collect some bird eggs when one thinks of those tiny specks in that white eternity, I don t know about you but something lifts inside of me That such men lived through such days and nights on this planet of ours And so, on to the inexorable disaster of the last chapter, like a train of doom rushing down the tunnel Titus Oates describes how the four man team for the final push became five, how they got to the South Pole only to find that the superbly professional Amundsen had got there before them, how the despondent slog back to safety turned instead into a death march Taffy Evans went first, and when Oates walked out into the stormy night, he was only the second to go, the deaths of Scott and the other two were still a fortnight away But that s where Bainbridge ends her story Because really, all that needs to be said has already by then been said An epic tale


  7. Sandy Sandy says:

    There are many fine reviews of this book already in the Goodreads database I can add very little except to emphasize that a basic understanding of the events surrounding the Terra Nova Expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott in 1910 was essential to my appreciation of this short novel The author does not provide any sense of the chronology of the expedition The novel consists of five chapters , each written in the voice of one of the five men who died on the return trip from the South There are many fine reviews of this book already in the Goodreads database I can add very little except to emphasize that a basic understanding of the events surrounding the Terra Nova Expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott in 1910 was essential to my appreciation of this short novel The author does not provide any sense of the chronology of the expedition The novel consists of five chapters , each written in the voice of one of the five men who died on the return trip from the South Pole to the base camp at Cape Evans The chapters are dated June 1910, July 1910, March 1911, July 1911, and March 1912 Obviously, there are huge gaps in the story.The effect for me was of having parachuted into the chronology and, after two chapters, I was scratching my head in confusion My choice was to abandon the book or risk spoiling the ending by doing basic historical research I chose the latter and then began again at the beginning of the book.I am happy with that decision The novel really is a fascinating character study of the five men and a scathing commentary on Scott s military style of leadership, as well as a heart rending and horrific account of pure bad luck, multiplied many times over The contrast between the patriotic send off of the ship in June 1910 and the ultimate defeat is beyond tragic This is one of the most memorable stories that I have ever read


  8. Beverly Beverly says:

    Gets inside the heads of the fated explorers of Scott s doomed polar expedition.


  9. Trelawn Trelawn says:

    If not for the GRI continental challenge I would never have come across this book That would have been a shame because for such a short book it gives a fascinating overview of the Terra Nova Expedition 1910 1913 from the point of view of Taff Evans, Dr Wilson, Captain Scott, Lt Bowers and Captain Oates Each chapter charts a different stage of the journey to the South and the awful conditions the team endured I am in awe of anyone who would undertake such a journey knowing all the risks and b If not for the GRI continental challenge I would never have come across this book That would have been a shame because for such a short book it gives a fascinating overview of the Terra Nova Expedition 1910 1913 from the point of view of Taff Evans, Dr Wilson, Captain Scott, Lt Bowers and Captain Oates Each chapter charts a different stage of the journey to the South and the awful conditions the team endured I am in awe of anyone who would undertake such a journey knowing all the risks and brutal conditions involved While this is a fictional account, it is clear the Bainbridge has done her research and the five men come alive on the page and tug at your heart Delighted I came across this book and would recommend it as a good starting point for finding out about the polar expedition


  10. Ned Ned says:

    A fine historical novel of the failed voyage to the south pole, Bainbridge as a woman is adept at capturing male camaraderie there s yet another frenchified word and tension during the team s journey Cleverly, each of the five victims who made the final assault tells a segment of the chronology This makes for a variety of viewpoints as the reader is treated to the inner dialogue of each after hearing that of the other a perspective shifting device This story is about teamwork in the ha A fine historical novel of the failed voyage to the south pole, Bainbridge as a woman is adept at capturing male camaraderie there s yet another frenchified word and tension during the team s journey Cleverly, each of the five victims who made the final assault tells a segment of the chronology This makes for a variety of viewpoints as the reader is treated to the inner dialogue of each after hearing that of the other a perspective shifting device This story is about teamwork in the harshest of conditions almost incomprehensible, if anything the author does not include enough of the physical deprivations and use of senses and will resonate with anyone familiar with sport or adventure teams For example, the leader Scott is forever assayed for his decisions and, according to the author, quite wracked with self doubt, perhaps fatally Being a person who dislikes being cold, the accounts of severe conditions in 1910 11 were rather terrible, and I learned of fresh horrors such as losing all ones teeth spitting out like ice chinks once the nerves in the jaw are damaged by severe low temperatures Apparently the travel to collect Emperor Penguin eggs was the first attempt to travel 20 miles in 60 days in the dead nearly literally of winter Ultimately this story ends tragically spoiler alert if you ve not followed the last century and tragically this team was defeated by a Norwegian team by a few days But this is a very brisk read, well told, and entertaining as an adventure tale to nearly everyone.About the title I can t know if this was a diversion by the author or rooted in fact, but apparently these bold adventurers were very put off if their birthdays were not celebrated and got into petty scraps if this wasn t recognized by the captain Perhaps it is one of those little things that men hold onto when all the rest of their world is foreign, threatening and upside down A nice touch, I thought Slang and turns of phrase were very delightful in this book, derived from British, Scotch and Welsh, yet not entirely lost as some of these relics can be found today in American English.This book is kind of hard to find, from a British publisher And I want to thank my goodreads friends for turning me on to this, something I would never have found or read Apparently Donald Ray Pollock is a fan Perhaps this little seed of inspiration will spark a movement and this book from 1991 will become re discovered and spark a whole movement or movie series