Anne's Review of The Art of Breaking Ice
This work was inspired by real events, but as is often the case, the dialogue, some of the characters, and many of the scenes were invented for narrative purposes. This; however, makes for a thoroughly good novel about the legendary Nel Law who stowed away on a trip to Antarctica and became the first Australian woman to set foot on the icy continent.
Nel Law was an innovative artist whose art began to flourish as she explored the landscapes of Antarctica. However, the ship’s crew were opposed to her presence and encouraged rumours about her and another man on board who happened to befriend her. This enraged her husband, threatening her marriage.
This remarkable retelling of Nel Law's life showcases a history-making artist struggling for autonomy in a period when women's lives were constrained by their spouses. Fantastic!
In 1960, when the legendary icebreaker Magga Dan set sail for Antarctica, it contained a secret. Hiding on board was Nel Law, wife of expedition leader Phillip Law. She would make history by becoming the first Australian woman to set foot on the icy continent, but it was her art that would change everything.
Though a talented artist, Nel has always been defined by her role as 'the explorer's wife', but in the clear expanse of the Southern Ocean, her true self is finally allowed to emerge. Despite misogyny from the all-male crew and increasing resentment from her mercurial husband, Nel's art begins to flourish. Her new friend, a gentle ornithologist, encourages her to explore, but as the ship ploughs on towards Antarctica, rumours swirl, threatening her marriage and the tenuous peace between the controlling Phillip and his crew. In the clear, white light of the south, Nel will be forced to confront the truth of herself and of the man she has dedicated her life to.
This stunning reimagining of Nel Law's life reveals a ground-breaking artist searching for freedom in a world where women's lives were still defined by their husbands.