I came out of this book hating George Mallory. George Mallory, if you don’t know, is the first person to try to climb Mount Everest – and disappeared during his attempt. Above All Things, by Tanis Rideout, is a fictionalized account of that climb, and of Mallory’s wife Ruth, left at home in England to play second fiddle to a mountain.
It was an interesting read, set just after WWI. No satellite phones or pony bottles of oxygen. No high-tech fabrics. No GPS. Why climb Everest? Mallory is the one who said “Because it’s there.” He was obsessed with conquering the summit, addicted to the challenge. When it came to the mountain or his family, he chose the mountain.
The story was interesting, but I found myself not liking the book because I didn’t like the main characters. George Mallory was an arrogant jerk, who didn’t really care about anything except his own desires, constantly chasing the adrenaline high. Ruth spent a lot of time trying to keep up appearances, and making allowances for her husband’s behaviour. The book was well written, but if I can’t like the protagonists I can’t like the book.
They still don’t know whether he made it to the summit – in fact his ultimate fate wasn’t discovered until 1999, 75 years after his climb, when his body, dressed in completely inappropriate clothing for a mountain climber, was discovered.
If you like the man versus the elements type of story, and you , unlike me, can cope with not liking the people in the book, it’s worth a read. It does give you some interesting perspectives on that post-war era, and the depression that was starting. The writing is well done, and the suspense is excellent, which is quite a trick when you know what the ending will be.