The Long Exile: A true story of deception and survival amongst the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic

Melanie McGrath

A chilling true story of deception and survival set amidst the Inuit communities of the Canadian Arctic.

In 1922 the Irish-American explorer Robert Flaherty made a film about the Canadian Arctic. ‘Nanook of the North ‘starred a mythical Eskimo hunter who lived in an igloo with his family in the peaceful Arctic wilderness. Nanook’s story captured the world’s imagination. The film was shown in Paris, Beijing and New York, and, for a while, Nanook’s face beamed from packets of flour and ice-cream as far away as Australia and Scotland. In Malaysia, Nanook became a word meaning ‘strong man’.

Two years after the release of the film, the man who played Nanook – the Inuit hunter Alakarialak – starved to death on the Arctic ice. By this time, Robert Flaherty had quit the Arctic for good, leaving behind his bastard son, Joseph Flaherty, to grow up Eskimo.

Thirty years later, in 1953, a young and inexperienced Irish-Canadian policeman, Ross Gibson, was asked by the Canadian government to draw up a list of Inuit who were to be experimentally resettled in the uninhabited polar Arctic and left to fend as best they could. Joseph Flaherty and his family were on that list. They were told they were going to an Arctic Eden of spring flowers and polar bears…

Reviews of The Long Exile: A true story of deception and survival amongst the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic

    • ‘[McGrath] offers a carefully imagined portrait of the appalling lives of the Inuit on Ellesmere Island. This is a story of official wrong-headedness and arrogance and McGrath relays it with compassion. The narrative is gripping.’ Guardian
    • ‘Melanie McGrath’s tragic tale has an icy ring of truth that wrings the heart.’ The Times
    • ‘Melanie McGrath is a gifted, passionate and sensitive story-teller and through her the authentic voice of the Arctic, not the clarion call of great white explorers, rings loud and clear. She gets right under the Inuit’s seal-skin parkas; her research is meticulous, her touch is light, her understanding and invisibility are the absolute opposite of the years of foreign domination. Her play with language is disarming and original. Fresh, illuminating and heartbreaking history.’ Sunday Telegraph
    • ‘Poignant and humane book. McGrath, who tracked down some of the survivors as well as traveling in the territory, tells an impressively researched and often poetic story.’ Observer
    • ‘McGrath’s scrupulously researched, skilfully written story of what Joseph endured in the unwelcoming far north is heartbreaking – and made even more poignant by the involvement of an unacknowledged son of the man who did more then anyone to create the outside world’s image of the Inuit.’ The Sunday Times
    • ‘McGrath also has a wonderful feel for landscape and so the Arctic itself assumes the life of a character.The language is lovely. Modulated, lyrical and beautiful as the stark nature it describes, it makes McGrath’s book more than a fascinating and instructive read. It makes it a joyful one.’ Evening Standard