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«Read Regional 2020

Horatio Clare: Icebreaker

Icebreaker is a book that found me. A dear friend had died; a mutual friend working at the Finnish Embassy was looking for ways of promoting Finland in the year of the country’s centenary. He got in touch and said, ‘How would you like to travel on one of our icebreakers?’ (He had read a book I wrote about travelling the world on container ships.) Of course, I said yes! It seemed the most wonderful opportunity. And we both agreed that our dear friend who had died was continuing something he always did in life: helping and connecting people.

I thought the book would mostly be the story of a voyage, but it turned out to be much more than that. It is a sideways look at an extraordinary country (Finland is one of the happiest and most successful places on earth) which has lessons for us about how we might live richer lives. The environment, the future and the extraordinary qualities of ice – upon which the climate depends – all came bursting into the story. It was a life-changing voyage…

Questions for Readers

How did you feel about the approach the book takes: is a journey on a ship an effective way of telling a bigger story?

What does the story of Finland have to teach us about building a just and successful society?

I was trying to find new and interesting ways of writing about climate change: how do you feel I did?

Recommended Reading

The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat
Deep Sea And Foreign Going by Rose George
A Voyage by Dhow by Norman Lewis
Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare

Horatio Clare’s award-winning nature, travel, memoir, and children’s books include Running for the Hills (the story of a Welsh hill farm), A Single Swallow (following the migration from South Africa to the UK), Down to the Sea in Ships (travelling the oceans on container vessels), Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North and Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot. Horatio broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio, writes on travel for the Financial Times and lectures in nonfiction at the University of Manchester. He lives with his family in West Yorkshire.

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