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A First World War novel of love, peace, violence and Antarctica

A First World War novel of love, peace, violence and Antarctica

Adelaide, 1916, and Dora Somerville grieves for her brother, Edgar, killed in France. In the course of an oppressively hot summer, she decides to abandon her pacifist beliefs and embrace violence as a means to end the Great War.

In his printing shop, her lover, Daniel Bone, also makes a momentous decision. He can no longer face the constant pressure to fight in the war – he will join an Antarctic expedition and abandon Australia, leaving Dora behind. However, the peace Daniel seeks eludes him when he is caught up in a crisis in the icy wilderness as the men find themselves under attack.

When the lovers parted, they had agreed to write to one another, although they knew the letters would never be sent. Thousands of miles apart, their passion grows as the decisions they have made imperil them both.


Dora Somerville's brother has just been killed fighting in France. She is the last remaining member of her family, and her lover Daniel, a printer, is in the same situation. Both are pacifists, and Daniel, finding it harder to remain in Australia while men are enlisting all around him and women are handing him white feathers, decides to join a one-year scientific expedition to Antarctica. They decide they will write to each other, even though their letters can't be posted. But Dora, feeling abandoned, finds herself in league with an extremist organisation whose pacifist activism embraces violence, a situation that eventually leads to the crisis of her life. In the history of wartime Australia and of Mawson's Antarctica, Susan Errington has rich material at her disposal and uses it to construct a thoughtful historical romance.

Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald

A rich full circle of a novel. In places as raw and brutal as the bomb central to the plot, and in others woven as delicately as lace. A new perspective on Australia’s Great War, and I loved it.

Deborah Challinor

A passionate story of the conflicts born of trying to avoid war – or perhaps even attempting to destroy it altogether – Ice Letters balances a sense of exquisite beauty with a story of terrific intent. Dora and Daniel are as fierce as they are frightened and their twinned and intertwined stories explode from the page with rich imagery and poetic vivacity. You know the way the world unfolds around them – you know the awful shape of World War I. But what these two want is a different world, a different history, and their story brings its readers a stunning new prism through which to view that well-known time. In the letters of these lovers, as in Susan Errington’s delicate crafting of their stories, there’s a beautiful celebration of what Errington herself describes as “writing as an essential act of surviving in the wilderness”.

Ashley Hay

This novel makes one consider the lesser-known parts of Australian history. While thousands of men volunteered to serve overseas in World War 1, there was also disquiet and opposition to the war among certain sectors of the community. How Dora and Daniel deal with threats to their lives and to the lives of others, makes this a page-turner.

Jennifer Somerville, Good Reading

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    May 2, 2016

    Vintage Australia

    320 pages

    RRP $32.99

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    May 2, 2016

    Random House Australia

    320 pages

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Book Clubs
Ice Letters Book Club Notes

A heartwrenching reading group choice: Susan Errington’s Ice Letters.