Brother in Ice has been a hit with the literary critics and won the English Pen Award this year. Published in 2018 and translated by Mara Faye Lethem from Spanish, the novel is centred around the author feelings and relationship with her brother who is autistic and her work as a researcher / artist on polar exploration. While both subjects seem at first like ‘polar’ opposites, the novel introduces the reader in the most subtle ways to the exploration of her thoughts and relationship with a brother who can barely communicate and a mother who has spent her life caring for him. The reader is guided through the author’s research on the history of polar exploration and a field trip to Reykjavik. The language is precise and terse, suitable for the cold and unforgiving landscape and conditions. Interspersed with the authors work on artic exploration and the landscape of uncharted territories by explorers we get a glimpse of the writer’s relationships with a brother she feels distant from and a mother who is his sole carer.
As with icebergs, what lies beneath this novel and writing is really what matters. The images and subtle drawings dispersed between chapter’s hints to the process through which this writer has come to accept and understand her family and place in the world. A must read for anyone with an interest in unchartered territories and family relations.