Most of us have heard of places like the Bering Straight or Bering Sea, yet if you're like me, you probably have no idea who Bering actually was, nor the part he played in the exploration of the world. "Island of the Blue Foxes" offers an intimate view of the Great Northern Expedition, a mission initiated by the Russian Empire's Peter the Great to explore the far reaches of Siberia and the western coast of America. If the mission had been a complete success, the story would be interesting. However, in the struggles, trials, and eventual disasters that befell the crew of expedition, I found a story that I couldn't put down.
Stephen Bown, the author of "Island", puts the reader right in the middle of the action from the start. The prologue of the book immediately places us with a group of sailors that has found themselves shipwrecked on a deserted island. Bown then rewinds and fills in the entire story of the expedition. This was the perfect way to make the story even more engaging.
Due to the nature of the expedition, there are many stories from the crew that were doubtless left unrecorded and will never be told. But Bown was able to take the existing narratives and piece together a story that felt well-rounded and complete. It is a story of the fallibility of individuals, but it also a story of triumph. I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book, and to learn about Bering and his daring crew on "the world's greatest scientific expedition".
*Da Capo Press has provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.