Canadian Readers Focus on Jasper Icefields Book

Book fanatic Ibis on Reader of the Stack mentions a fictional book centered around the icefields of Jasper National Park.

Ibis has sought to read the entire new Canadian literature library and has invited others to join her in what has become known as the CanLit Project. Ibis also participates in Canada Reads, a 3-month long celebration of reading and books that includes a debate about Canadian books.

The book is called Icefields and was written by Thomas Wharton. The story is about a fictional 1898 physician exploring the Canadian Rockies who stumbles upon a mystery.

Jasper Glacier Desktop Wallpaper

It turns out that Icefields is part of the 2008 Canada Reads debates, an annual battle of 5 great works of Canadian fiction. As part of the debate, Canadian astronaut/book fanatic Steve MacLean had the honor of defending Icefields against the competition. Audio recordings of the debates have been made available here.

While reflecting on his choice of the book, MacLean recalls his personal experience seeing the icefields from space: “They were visibly smaller compared to my first flight 14 years earlier.”
Up close and personal with a glacier

Canada Reads also provides several excellent audio recordings where Thomas Wharton reflects on the book and on Jasper National Park. The recordings are available here on the Canada Reads website.

In one of the recordings, Thomas Wharton gets at the essence of Jasper National Park while describing his book (slightly paraphrased):

“The main character…over the course of the book comes to have a more environmental understanding of this place (Jasper),….at first he’s a scientist…and slowly comes to see himself as more part of this landscape and part nature…I think that’s one of the things that a place like Jasper can do for people…In way I think people should spend more time in a place that is more wild than they normally do. On the other hand, the more people who come, the less wild it gets. It’s kind of a contradiction and I don’t know how to resolve it. There are times I feel I shouldn’t go to the mountains… I should just be happy knowing that they’re there…”

Great stuff. That is the Jasper National Park experience. The contradiction of having more people in the park is a real issue as has been mentioned here before. The park service limits development as much as possible to the benefit of Mother Nature. Wharton has a blog here.
For an overview of the book and more resources from Canada Reads, click here. Wharton provides further reflections on the book here. On Amazon, readers offer mostly positive reviews for the Icefields book.

The Canada Reads competition includes a People’s Choice Award. At the time of this writing, Icefields is beating out its 4 competitors for the award.

Chief astronaut Steve MacLean says of the book “When I finished reading it and put the book down, I wanted to read it again…”

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