The Big Bang Symphony

Author: Lucy Jane Bledsoe
Publisher: Terrace Books, May 2010
ISBN: 978-0299235000
Rated: 3.5 stars
Genre: Literary

Antarctica is a vortex that draws you back, season after season. The place is so raw and pure, all seal hide and crystalline iceberg. The fishbowl communities at McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, and in the remote field camps intensify relationships, jack all emotion up to a 10. The trick is to get what you need and then get out fast.

The Big Bang Symphony, set in Antarctica, is as much about place as it is about the people that populate this desolate, wind-swept, unforgiving and frozen continent. A continent that is, in equal measure, one of the most beautiful, haunting places on the planet. One we all know to still be virgin and untouched…it is in this vast wilderness of blues, whites and shades of grey that Bledsoe throws together an unlikely bunch of characters each with their own reasons to be at the last stop on the ends of the earth.

Each of Bledsoe’s characters is wrought with fine detail, and all to human in their hopes, dreams and yes, failings. The author gives them not only purpose and direction she then skillfully undermines them, setting them at odds not only with the people they rely on for survival, but with the elements and Antarctica herself. Pulling them, and thereby, us, in all directions: emotionally, mentally and physically.

To set the scene for what’s to come, Bledsoe opens her novel in the best way possible, one that catches your attention instantly. With a bone-chilling disaster. One that leaves you wondering about how anyone would want to go to the South Pole to begin with, let alone stay there for months on end, in the harshest conditions known to man (and woman) and think they can do it all: get in, get out, survive intact, and make it away with some shred of sanity, let alone believe they will be left unchanged by the whole experience.

And so it is with The Big Bang Symphony, we, the reader, are not left unscathed as we follow the three main characters: Rosie, a thirty-something cook who is returning for her third season on the ice, Alice, a brilliant scientist with a straight-forward naivety that brings her her own set of problems, and then, Mikala, a talented musician who has not only lost her muse, but lost touch with her music and is left bereft.

The three women are made and changed by their experiences on the ice, over-coming a great deal in order to not only find themselves, but also find a sense of home, and just what that means to each of them.

The cast of secondary characters is just as intriguing, and, for the most part, fully-fleshed out. My only quibble, and it’s small (other than for a couple of physical errors in the typesetting) is the fact I would have loved to have read so much more about their thoughts and motivations. I would have liked a little more depth to these three woman. Yes, we get an insight to their histories, and brief glimpses into what it is that might be motivating them, but I never really felt it was enough to explain some of the characters choices or decision. Just my own personal niggle. And yes, I know, the point is that the Antarctic acts like a lens, the conditions so harsh that it changes you in ways you might not expect, but still. This one had a little less passion and emotion than I had hoped for, given the place.

That said, Bledsoe’s evocative proses really gives you an absolute immersion into place and setting, which I cannot fault. You are transported and feel chilled to the bone by the end.

All in all a worthwhile read.


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3 Responses to “The Big Bang Symphony”

  1. Anne Laughlin Says:
    April 28th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Alexandra – is your system based on 4 stars or 5?

  2. The Editor Says:
    April 28th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Anne, it’s based on five.

  3. Tweets that mention Kissed By Venus » Blog Archive » The Big Bang Symphony -- Says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kissed By Venus. Kissed By Venus said: Reviewing Lucy Jane Bledsoe's THE BIG BANG SYMPHONY, check it out: [...]

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