The Balloonist

by MacDonald Harris.

Editions of The Balloonist

From the Jacket:

It is July 1897, at the northernmost reach of the inhabited world. A Swedish scientist, and American Journalist, and a young, French-speaking adventurer climb into the wicker gondola suspended beneath a huge red-and-white balloon. The ropes are cut, the balloon rises, and the three begin their voyage--an attempt to become the first people to set foot on the North Pole, to arrive there, and return, borne on the wind.

Gustave Crispin, the Swede, is the leader of the expedition and the narrator of MacDonald Harris's witty, richly sensual and ingenious novel. As the balloon drifts northward, his thoughts drift south to his exasperating romance with the striking Luisa, a Parisienne of exotic background and a decidedly venturesome spirit, with whom he fell madly in love in the only way nineteenth-century amateur scientists seem to have done: madly and to his great annoyance. While he works painstakingly on the inventions that will make his polar adventure possible, he and Luisa embark on a storm, tender, and hilarious affair, involving, among other incidents, a delightfully comic balloon trip across the Gulf of Bothnia; a series of maddening seances in the home of Luisa's eccentric family; a brief, wonderfully erotic idyll in the Italian Lakes, and a shocking foray into the decadent counterculture of turn-of-the-Century Paris.

With great elegance, Harris plaits together the strands of his story--the hazardous exploration of the Arctic and the equally hazardous journey through the warmer regions of the heart--to create a novel that is both a captivating, unsentimental love story and an exciting adventure in the tradition of Jules Verne.

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