The chalice from which Christ served the wine at the last supper was sought, valiently and vainly, by many crusaders. Their heroism and idealism masked their failure as well as the many deaths they caused. Berton draws a good parallel between this quest and the search for the Northwest Passage and the route to the North Pole.
His book details tile criminal folly of the British Admiralty sending out overmanned ships with sailors dressed in fashionable British uniforms. Crews manhauling huge loads across the Canadian northland suffered needlessly, despite knowledge of Inuit clothing and proven anti-scorbotic measures.
The story didn't move this reviewer as much as Berton's tale of Vimy. But readers who have not followed the many recent magazine articles on northern topics will probably find the accounts of the search for Sir John Franklin and other quests quite stirring and as well written as any of Berton's books.
The fat tome is divided into fifty-page sections. These are further subdivided into bite-size pieces. This helps young readers, who might find the history cloying in its entirety. More mature readers will enjoy the insight into the sovereignty question, the link with our British heritage, and the data concerning the importance of the Inuit. The maps are simple and clear; the chronology and index are useful.