Shiver by Nikki Gemmell

The first book I read by Australian author Nikki Gemmell was The Bride Stripped Bare. I fell in love with the way she wrote and so I found myself looking for other novels by her. Shiver is her first novel and it’s worthy of praise.

I can catalogue Antarctica by touch.

The touch of air sucked dry on my cheek, the fur of a day-old seal pup, the touch of an iceberg, a blizzard, a lover, the touch of sweat at minus twenty-three, of a camera stuck to the skin on my face, of cold like glass cutting into my skin, of a snowflake, of a dead man, of a doctor’s fingers on my inner thigh, of a tongue on my eye.

Fin is a twenty-six year old Sydney-based radio journalist who gets the opportunity to travel to Antarctica to “capture noises.” The trip down and her subsequent stay at the Australian station would be a compelling enough read all on its own  because of how alien the landscape is and the weird subculture of scientists and others who  make the journey. But Fin does something she isn’t supposed to do- she falls in love.

Her relationship with 38-year-old biologist, Max, is – of course- intense because of where they are, their lack of privacy, the rules surrounding fraternization. Fin is buoyed by her feelings- not the first relationship of her adult life, but certainly the most important. She and Max share an unquenchable thirst for each other physically and are, in other ways, perfectly suited.

Of course, something tragic happens and even though you know it’s coming, it’s still horrible.

Gemmell herself spent time in Antarctica and says that this is her most autobiographical novel. Knowing the circumstances of her inspiration adds an extra layer of meaning to the book- but I suggest you wait to read about her real-life experiences until after you’ve finished the novel.

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