Welcome to Frozen Danger Land!

10 03 2012


Last year on this site, I reviewed Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman, a Yukon dogsledding memoir by British travel writer Polly Evans. I was pretty hard on the book – in large part because, as I wrote, it seemed that Evans tended to “exoticize or dramatize the Yukon, which, really, is dramatic enough on its own terms.”

It seemed like Evans felt a need to introduce a (not entirely genuine, in my view) sense of danger: There are references to the proper techniques to prevent drowning, should she happen to fall through the ice on a frozen lake or river — this, despite the fact that she’s being taught how to mush by experienced guides at one of the region’s best-known tour operators, well able to avoid any potential weak spots in the (very thick) mid-winter ice.

At one point Evans referred to her arrival in “one of the harshest climates on Earth,” and I thought to myself: Come on, lady. We have not one but TWO Starbucks franchises in town. Sure, it gets cold, but when you get down to it Whitehorse is really quite a civilized place.

Later I referred to my home receiving a “sort of Frozen Danger Land! theme park treatment.” Evidently, said treatment made me a tad touchy and defensive.

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Northern Reads: ‘Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman’ by Polly Evans

28 01 2011

It’s a funny thing, reading a travel book about your own home — and as a Canadian, it’s not something I’ve experienced very often.

(Be honest. Can you name a travel narrative set in Ottawa, or Saskatoon, or even Toronto?)

So I have to offer up a disclaimer right at the start: I’m not sure to what extent my discomfort with reading an outsider’s take on my home affected my judgment of Polly Evans’ book.

That being said, let’s get down to it. Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman (subtitle: “Travels with Sled Dogs in Canada’s Frozen North”) spans the 11 weeks that Evans, a Londoner, spent volunteering at a dogsledding outfit just outside Whitehorse and traveling around the territory following the annual Yukon Quest.

And I say “spans” rather than “tells the story of” because, well, the book is distressingly chronological.

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