Snow Man:
John Hornby in Canada's Barren Lands

320 pages,
ISBN: 0773517103

Post Your Opinion
Brief Reviews
by M. T. Kelly

Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands, by Malcolm Waldron, is the story of the 1923 overwintering by John Hornby and James Critchell-Bullock in the "barren ground" of the Northwest Territories. Although Waldron was never within two thousand miles of the tundra, and was dying of pulmonary tuberculosis when he wrote this book, he was so possessed by the story he was telling that he might as well have been there taking notes.

Hornby himself seems to have written hardly anything down, yet his puckish, criminally careless character has become legendary. But then he had good writers: first Waldron; then Edgar Christian, whose diary, written as he starved to death under Hornby's leadership, was published as Unflinching in 1937 (and re-issued in 1979 as Death in the Barren Ground); and George Whalley in his 1962 classic, The Legend of John Hornby.

Hornby was not simple; for all his nearly murderous negligence, he was among the very few people of his time who viewed the North as something other than an abattoir. He completed little that he started, but he did finish a single-spaced, sixteen-page report recommending the creation of a game sanctuary on the Thelon River; this was taken seriously and had concrete results.

Waldron drew upon Bullock's journals, and such was his power of re-creation that the ambiguous, nearly mentally ill Hornby and the blustering Bullock come alive in a way that is rare in this kind of writing. And Waldron is superb on the country. When Bullock read a draft of this narrative of his trip, he said, "I had to pinch myself to keep from knowing I was not there."

There is in Snow Man an overpowering sense of landscape, as well as a sometimes naive but always compelling portrait of two men who were nearly crushed by it. It's a valuable book to have back in print, and a luminous testament to the accurate power of imagination.

M.T. Kelly


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us