This creative nonfiction biography of the celebrated Arctic explorer Dr. John Rae begins in 1854, when on a mapping expedition to the Boothia Peninsula, Rae discovers the Northwest Passage. Then on the same trip, a chance encounter with an Inuit hunter leads him to uncover the tragic fate that befell the officers and crew of the long-missing Franklin Expedition when, starving on the ice, they resorted to cannibalism. When the Scottish-born scientist and Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor reports the shocking details about the men’s demise to the British Admiralty, he is ignored and then publicly belittled by such well-known Victorian society figures as the novelist Charles Dickens and Sir John Franklin’s widow, Jane. From then on, Rae’s life becomes a restless journey of soaring hope and bitter disappointment, as he attempts to restore his good reputation with the British public, defend the integrity of the Arctic natives who brought him the evidence of cannibalism, and rebuild his shattered identity. Rae’s search for what has been lost takes him home to the Orkney Islands, to Hamilton, Lower Canada, across Rupert’s Land to the Pacific Coast and eventually back to London, England, where yet another turn of events catches him by surprise.
Alice Jane Hamilton is the great-great granddaughter of Arctic explorer John Rae’s sister Marion Sibbald Rae. Marion, her husband John and their ten children emigrated from Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, to Hamilton, Canada West (later named Ontario), in 1856. Jane holds an Honours BA in English and Japanese Studies from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and an MA degree in Modern Literatures from Birkbeck College, University of London. Her professional background includes contributing to CBC Radio programs "Fresh Air" and "Morningside," the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National Post and other publications. She also taught Communications, Visual Analysis and Canadian Literature at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario. Jane and her husband Don Cooper live in the town of Penetanguishene on Georgian Bay in Ontario.
"Alice Jane Hamilton skilfully blends fact and fiction to breathe new life into the thrilling story of John Rae, the most successful, and yet least celebrated, Arctic explorer of the 19th century. " - Tom Muir, author of Orkney Folk Tales