“I can catalogue Antarctica by touch. The touch of air sucked dry on my cheek, the fur of a day-old seal pup, the touch of an iceberg, a blizzard, a lover, the touch of sweat at minus twenty-three, of a camera stuck to the skin on my face, of cold like glass cutting into my skin, of a snowflake, of a dead man, of a doctor’s fingers on my inner thigh, of a tongue on my eye.”
Shiver is Nikki Gemmell’s first novel.
It is the story of Fin, a young woman who gets the chance of a lifetime to go to Antarctica.
Surrounded by the cruel beauty of the last great wilderness on earth, she finds herself transfixed by the power of the land.
Travelling and living with a close-knit and idiosyncratic team, Fin learns the rules and taboos of community life in Antarctica, and then promptly breaks the strictest taboo of all – she falls in love. The consequences are shattering.
Lyrical, haunting and sometimes painfully moving, Shiver is a first novel of great power and beauty.
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Inspiration for the novel
I’d wanted to be a writer since I was about ten, but life always seemed to get in the way. I had to make a living, and when I left university I fell straight into journalism. It involved a lot of shiftwork and moving around, and I was too exhausted to give the writing dream a go. After about seven years, when I’d completely lost the hunger for journalism, Triple J radio in Australia sent me to Antarctica to cover a scientific expedition.
The trip changed my life in many ways.
I “crossed the line” as a journalist – fell in love with someone I was interviewing. Martin was subsequently killed in an accident in Antarctica. Well, my life was turned upside down. At the age of twenty eight I grew up – it was like I was being hauled into adulthood. Grief gave me clarity, it stopped the silliness. Martin’s death taught me the importance of following my heart, of attempting to do what I really wanted to do and not letting people fool me into giving up.
I finally began the transition from journalism to fiction writing. And ironcially, I had the gift of a story.
Shiver is my most autobiographical novel. After I completed it I felt stripped. I’ll never write in such a raw way again. All writers are cannibals in a way, but with this book I cannibalised my own life more than anyone elses.
I wrote Shiver as a gift to Martin.
“Most importantly you write from the heart, so that the words come leaping onto the page.” Alison Weir
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