Dorothy Parker’s Review of Ice Palace by Edna Ferber

Ice palace by edna ferber

It’s always fascinating to come upon  a review by one classic author of the work of another. In this case, Dorothy Parker’s review of Ice Palace by Edna Ferber (1957), one of her behemoth later novels, gets the acid-penned treatment. 

Of the two authors, Parker is the one who has been more enduring; in their time, Ferber was one of the richest, most successful writers of the mid-twentieth century, something to which Parker hilariously eludes.

Keep in mind that when Ice Palace was published in 1957, Alaska was not yet a state (that would imminently happen in 1959).


A brief synopsis of Ice Palace

Before we get to Parker’s review, here’s a brief synopsis of the novel from the 1957 Book Club Edition:

Edna Ferber has summoned up all her vast natural resources as a superior novelist to depict today’s Alaska in Ice Palace. Here are the Territory’s modern vigorous people, its dramatic weather and scenery, its desperate, still-unfinished struggle for statehood. And here, too are the men from “The Outside,” determined to exploit a fabulously rich Alaska for their own gains.

This is an angry novel, telling of the fifty-year battle between two titans trying to dominate Alaska’s future. And this is the story of their lovely granddaughter, Christine Storm, who had to choose between two younger titans — a choice that stood, in a way, for Alaska’s future.

The characters in Ice Palace are all as strong, as boldly drawn, as the towering mountains that surround them. The novel’s vital theme of a proud land’s virile insistence on the dignity of independence is as forceful as the invigorating air its people breathe.

Parker was the book reviewer (Constant Reader) for The New Yorker for a number of years; later, she was the reviewer for Esquire, where this review was published. Following is Dorothy Parker’s take on Ice Palace, laced with her trademark snarky wit.

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Ice palace by Enda Ferber

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Ice Palace by Edna Ferber: Dorothy Parker’s 1957 review

It was my privilege to have a sort of preview of what is surely to be one of the big events of the springtime — Miss Edna Ferber’s massive novel Ice Palace. Miss Ferber, who is so thoroughly travels her country, came most recently upon Alaska. She was deeply impressed with the dramatic beauty of the place, and so, through her eyes, are you.

And she is finely indignant over the stupidity of not admitting the territory to statehood — I wish there were several millions like her. Otherwise, the book, which is going to be a movie, has the plot and characters of the book which is going to be a movie.

The heroine, Christine Storm, has yellow hair and dark slanting eyes, and she is Miss Alaska from the start — the very start, for she was born in a caribou. You heard me, she was born in a caribou.

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Ice Palace 1960 film

Ice Palace (1960 film)
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An ill-advised walk in the wilds

Well, it seems that this young couple was out walking in the wilds, and suddenly there were unmistakable signs that Baby was about to make three.

It was perishing cold; Sophie expected father shot a caribou who happened to be passing and slit it up the front. He assisted his wife to climb inside, and there, all snug and warm, she gave birth to our heroine.

The baby was fine, but unhappily, the mother died. So a short time later, did the father, in an altercation won by a bear. I felt a real sorrow at these two deaths, for it meant that the girl was brought up by both of her grandfathers; two of the most smashing old bores you’d ever want to meet.

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Dorothy Parker at her typewriter

Gems from Dorothy Parker’s book reviews
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Power and romance, to be sure

There is also a salty outspoken old lady — the Thelma Ritter part, surely — who came to Alaska as a colleen, and stayed to boss the whole territory.

One grandfather is in love with Alaska and the other with money and power; through the second, Christine is exposed to the wealth and standards social family in Seattle. But Christine’s heart is is pure Alaskan gold as is her hair, and there in the distance is a fine young part-Eskimo aviator …

The most successful “writeress”

The United States is, as somewhere been said before, a big country, and there are still reaches of it it that Miss Ferber has not attended to. And in every one, there awaits a gold mine for the lady who is surely America’s most successful writeress.

— Dorothy Parker, writing for Esquire magazine, May 1958 


More about Ice Palace by Edna Ferber

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Giant by Edna Ferber

Giant (1952) was another Edna Ferber book-to-screen blockbusters

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