Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica

Sara Wheeler

Michiko Kakutani,  New York Times, March 17, 1998

It is, as Sara Wheeler writes in her compelling new book, a ”land of superlatives” . . . The impact of her book is remarkably similar to that of ”Arctic Dreams”: both volumes leave the reader with a visceral understanding of the metaphorical power of the poles, the mysterious, even sublime power they have exerted on the human imagination, and the desolate beauty that resides there amid the glaciers and icebergs and penguins.

Ms. Wheeler not only gives the reader gripping, emotional accounts of the chivalric heroism demonstrated by these early 20th-century explorers, but by cutting back and forth between their exploits and the exploits of present-day ”polies,” she underscores just how much things have changed . . . Antarctica’s monotonous white landscape, she writes toward the end of her evocative book, became to her ”a kind of cosmic symbol of harmony and of a peaceful freedom beyond poverty, gas bills and unrequited love.” It became a place, she says, where she ”learned another way of looking at the world.

Brilliant.” Outside Magazine


Sara Wheeler offers a sparkling, gossipy picture . . . “Terra Incognita”  must be the first funny book about Antarctica.Los Angeles Times


Wheeler’s mash note to the coldest continent . . . Wheeler’s Antarctica is a deeply human place  . . . Among this book’s pleasant surprises is her slow, subtle transformation, from a glibly cynical London journalist into a deeper, clearer, more introspective person, not to mention a better writer . . . Her voice grows stronger over the course of the tale.” – Bill Gifford, Washington Post


A great success, a pleasure to read, an incitement to travel. Wheeler gives us the beauty of Antarctica – its vastness, its endless sunlight or months of night, its seasons of four-hour sunsets, its animal life.”  Newsday


This is wonderful travel writing.” The Arizona Republic


Wheeler provides a fascinating account of explorers, past and present, who have been drawn to Antarctica, and of her own experience there.Miami Herald


Fascinating reading for any explorer, armchair or otherwise.Publishers Weekly (Starred)


A lively account of Antarctica and its stark history.”  Peter Matthiessen


Terra Incognita” is a superbly written book to add to the canon of polar literature. Entertaining, audacious and imaginative, it is a joy to read.” Beryl Bainbridge


A brilliantly passionate book, evocative, poignant and at times hilarious, Sara Wheeler effortlessly draws us into the heart  of the Big White, insistently making that daunting continent as much a part of our imagination as it is of hers. She has that instinctive and spontaneous talent to create a sense of empathy, and wonder, and freshness, and desire to be there that is the mark of all great travel writers. Alongside Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s “The Worst Journey in the World” and Barry Lopez’s “Arctic Dreams,”  Sara Wheeler’s  “Terra Incognita” is the best of polar writing.” Joe Simpson,  author of “Touching the Void.”


A triumph . . . I cannot believe that anything better will ever be written about Antarctica.” Geoffrey Moorhouse, Daily Telegraph (London)


Stunning. I have read many accounts of polar exploration, but never one which so touchingly describes its emotional topography. What she has done could not be done better.” Independent (London)


Irresistible.Daily Mail (London)


Funny and moving.The Times (London)


Antarctica could hope for no better chronicler: spirited, humorous and highly intelligent, she is also a writer of rare talent.” The Observer (London)


Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Sara Wheeler

Caroline Alexander, Cover story, New York Times, May 5, 2002

This is a clear case where the biography of an author could expand the understanding of his masterwork, and it is a great tribute to Sara Wheeler’s ”Cherry” that one turns from her biography back to Cherry’s own work with renewed, not undiminished, relish, with, if it can be possible, a heightened appreciation of his story.

[This] book, beautifully written throughout, takes fire in the Antarctic chapters, where irresistible forces converge — the story of the expedition itself, Cherry’s account and her own powers of description. Wheeler’s vocabulary to evoke this luminous and cruel continent, where she has traveled extensively, appears limitless, and scenes set in the past have the clarity and precision of a place closely observed. Wheeler, like Cherry, understands that it is ”the response of the spirit” to life’s journey that is compelling. ”Cherry” is an authoritative and moving evocation of this greater journey.

Read the whole review


An exquisite work . . . spellbinding . . . Wheeler has a remarkable talent for unearthing the nuances of a person’s character, and in her hands the life of this often remote man is beautifully and compellingly drawn.” Jennifer Greenstein, The Washington Post


This extraordinarily fine biography.”  Boston Globe


I am happy to report that we finally have a beautifully written and deeply felt portrait of this museum-quality English eccentric  . .   a must-read  . . .  Wheeler has prefect pitch.”  The Globe and Mail (Toronto)


With this wonderful biography Sara Wheeler has vaulted into the front rank of modern British writers.” Simon Winchester


Apsley Cherry-Garrard was a complicated man, and the portrait of him that emerges from these pages is utterly fascinating. “Cherry” is a wonderful book.” Jon Krakauer.


Richly detailed and lyrical . . . eloquent and gripping.Publishers Weekly


Magnificent.Daily Telegraph (London)


Superb.Guardian (London)


Beautiful.” Independent   (London)


Brilliantly succeeds not only in bringing this modest man disarmingly to life, but also in recreating the England of his time and social setting . . . A formidable accomplishment.Sunday Telegraph (London)


Accomplishes what only the best biographies can.The Times (London)


Selected as Book of the Year by Prime Minister John Major


Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton

Sara Wheeler Too Close To The Sun

A New York Times Notable Book


Florence Williams, New York Times, April 29, 2007

What is it about these untamable men that makes them so alluring? . . .  In Finch Hatton, Wheeler has found the archetypal wanderer forced to straddle multiple worlds. He embodies the contradictions of the early modern age and, in some ways still, of ours.


A fascinating portrait [of a[ singularly romantic life.Vogue


Highly recommended . . . Wheeler’s striking descriptions of East Africa, including Kenya and the Rift Valley, create a rich sense of place and time.Library Journal


Wheeler’s fascinating, witty bio reveals her wonderful eye for telling details.Entertainment Weekly


I loved Sara Wheeler’s in-depth, major scoop of a book.” Peter Beard


A wonderful book – more than a biography of this man of action, a record of a whole era . . . I felt this was the real man, and this biography the fullest expression of his world.” Paul Theroux


No one who has ever tasted Africa will fail to be influenced by Wheeler’s writing.” Christopher Ondaatje, Books in Canada


Magnificent.Sunday Times (London)


Dense, moving and insightful: a pleasure.” The Observer (London)


A richly, sensually atmospheric book.Sunday Telegraph (London)


Out of Africa was a good enough film. But nothing like as good as Sara Wheeler’s “Too Close to the Sun” . . . this book is as impressive in its way as Wheeler’s remarkable  “Terra Incognita.”  I enjoyed it enormously.” William Trevor, Book of the Year, Spectator (London)


Engrossing.” Hilary Spurling, The Times (London)


Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile

Sara Wheeler

Adam Goodheart,  New York Times, June 6, 1999

[Wheeler is] resourceful, funny, a delightfully keen observer of life around her. On the island of Chiloe, she watches a fisherman in a green hat pluck a small translucent crab out of a fresh sea urchin: ”He . . . placed it under his top lip, allowed it to crawl round his gums till it reached the back of his mouth, then flipped it between his back molars — and crunched.” You can almost taste the unfortunate creature, whether you like it or not. The best sections of Wheeler’s book are as salty as that.”


Shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book of the Year Award (UK)


An Island Apart: Travels in Evia (second edition: Evia: Travels on an Undiscovered Greek Island)

Sara Wheeler

My admiration is increased by my scant knowledge of an island which Wheeler has made intimidatingly seductive. It recalls Patrick Leigh Fermor’s classics, where very step he takes is footnoted with idiosyncratic intelligence.” Frederick Raphael, Times Literary Supplement


Wonderful.” Daily Mail (London)