By Gillian Flynn
Updated February 22, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Dr. Nielsen: National Science Foundation/AP WWW

In contrast to the hype around it, Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle For Survival at the South Pole, Dr. Jerri Nielsen’s memoir of battling cancer while stationed in Antarctica is spare and frank. The doctor’s tale of detecting a lump in her breast, administering her own chemotherapy, and trying not to die before she can be evacuated is harrowing.

So, too, is the story of how she decided to spend a year on ”the Ice” in the afterburn of a hateful divorce. And while the narrative occasionally bogs down in medical minutiae, it’s mostly brisk — and beautiful: Nielsen’s story of survival is also a love poem to her ”home,” a blue and white otherworld where scientists play on centuries old snow in a night that lasts six months.

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