Top critical review
Most Likely Pure Drivel
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 15, 2013
Notice I use the title "most likely." This is only for the fact that I dropped this pile of rubbish after reading about a third of it.
Huntford wasn't bad enough with his relentless comparison of apples and oranges (Scott vs. Amundsen). We now have a fresh new effort in whitewashing the bizarre character of the last barbarian.
Roald Amundsen was unquestionably the greatest of the polar athletes. Unfortunately, he also had the type of self-destruct personality that makes this brand of rehabilitative writing necessary.
When I got about 25% through this book I started getting the feeling that this was little more than a cleanup job for old Roald. At that moment I decided that I would read ahead to the one true test of this author's intent - how he handles the case of Amundsen and Nobile.
OH, MY GOD, what a pack of lies!
When I read the chapter title - "The Dirigible And The Fascist," at first I thought it was some sort of joke or sarcastic theme. But then, as I read on, I was not just disappointed that I had wasted 12 bucks on this crap, I was totally appalled.
To accuse Umberto Nobile of being a Fascist has less merit than calling Mother Theresa a Nazi. If you read anything about the life of Nobile, by any author, you will quickly come to realize that Mussolini and his Blackshirts made Nobile's life pure hell from day one of their tyranny. This is why the Americans embraced him lovingly. This is why the Russians went through such great expense and risk (both personal and political) to rescue him and his crew with their best icebreaker. The Russians admired little Umberto because they knew he was no Fascist.
Most Nobile historians will either admit or at least intimate that the Fascists would have preferred to have Nobile die on the ice. And this wasn't just after the crash of the Italia. High ranking Blackshirts like Italo Balbo and Umberto's Fascist-favored competitors in the Italian aviation industry were praying that he would simply disappear up north in the Norge.
What this author needs to realize is that you don't have to scrub a man's back to reveal new and interesting aspects of his life. I love reading new and interesting facts about Adolph Hitler. The story of this demon has always intrigued me. But if you twist the truth so as to favor your subject, you'll only discredit yourself in the act.
Of course, I'm making no comparisons here, but if you really want to understand Amundsen, READ HIS BOOKS. In his 1912, The South Pole (free with Kindle) he reveals his inner self with almost as much detail as our glorious Fuhrer did in Mein Kampf. He explains how he and his men killed a really cool Emperor Penguin just for s***s and giggles, clubbed five little puppies to death with the back of an axe, and drooled as they pondered the dog meat waiting for them at the end of a long trek. By the way, just so you know, according to Roald, Man's best friend is as tasty and delicious as any good cut of beef - and THAT was the actual quote.
The shame of it all is that this book was obviously well researched. The details of the Belgica voyage are one example. I have always harbored the suspicion that Amundsen might have been gay, in the closet, resentful of it, and just like Shakelton's brother, used female relations as a cover. Evidently, this was not the case, and although this author was willing to deal with this mystery of his life, I see no point in reading further for these insights, simply because I can no longer trust what I read.
But now let's go all the way back to the title, to set the record straight. Twice in my limited reading, I noticed that the author uses the phrase "The Last Viking" in suggesting that this was some sort of title that Amundsen earned for his stoic courage and savage determination to succeed. Rot! HIS MOTHER BESTOWED THIS TITLE UPON HIM! She used to say, "Rrrrroald! You are the last of the Vikings." And this was most likely when he was behaving like the ingrate that he was. If this author mentions this somewhere where I didn't read, well, that's as much credit as I can give him.
Let's allow this hyperbolic garbage to sink down into the ice where it belongs.