The idea of Thule has fascinated explorers, writers, and philosophers for centuries, ever since Greek explorer Pytheas claimed to have discovered this land in the 4th century BC. But where exactly is this mythical place? Joanna Kavenna attempts to find out in The Ice Museum, which is an account of her travels through Shetland, Iceland, Germany, Norway, Estonia, Svalbard, and Greenland - all locations that, at one time or another, could stake a claim to Thule.
Her journey throughout these lands results in what is both a travelogue and historical account. As she explains the significance of Thule throughout the ages (especially detailing its importance to the Victorians and the Nazis), she also describes the people of these lands, their customs, and their ways of life. She meets people from the poorest of the poor to politicians who have been touched in some way by Thule.
She travels from some of Europe's bustling cities (Munich, Talinn and Oslo) to some of the remotest parts of the North, and even in the coldest and most desolate of places, she maintains her enthusiasm for Arctic history and exploration. While she never discovers the real location of Thule, she makes every speculation about its location seem plausible.
I found this book to be somewhat slow at times, but despite that, I enjoyed Kavenna's writing style and her attention to detail. She made me feel like I was coming along with her on her journey. She has a way of making barren, frozen landscapes seem appealing, which is perhaps the point. Thule, real or imagined, is a place that has inspired people for centuries, and The Ice Museum truly makes it seem real and intriguing.