Friday, 1 March 2013
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
I have no idea what prompted me to read this book. I have never had an interesting in climbing nor in the history of Mount Everest. I don't even like to climb to the top of a step ladder, but by the time I had finished the first chapter, I didn't want to put Above all Things down. Some how, author Tanis Rideout has brought to life a story that is almost ninety years old. I wanted to race through this book so I could find out what happened and at the same time, I had to keep myself for searching about George Mallory on the Internet. That would have been cheating.
This is the story of the third attempt by the British in 1924 to scale Mount Everest. George Mallory was part of the team for each of those attempts. Each time he left at home his wife Ruth and their three children.
I was captivated by this fictionalized re-telling. As I was reading, I watched the snow outside my window and shivered knowing that Mallory and his team had endured much worse. I imagined them in their cotton and leather clothing and realized how inadequate their supplies must have been. Poor nutrition and dehydration must have plagued them through the entire adventure.
Several thoughts stuck with me through out the book. First, the nature of a man. What lengths a man would go to in achieving a goal. What price was George willing to pay to be able to stand at the summit of Everest.
Second, the role of the wife, who was expected to stay at home and support what ever it was that the husband chose to do with his life. Was Ruth given any say in what George did.
A third thing that bothered me was that at that time it was thought to be unsporting if the climbers used oxygen bottles. Who would think it unsporting. Was it the climbers themselves or was it those armchair adventurers sitting safely in their clubs in London whose most dangerous endeavour was crossing the street.
I loved this book. I found myself staying up late at night to finish just one more chapter and then another. I will even admit that I was moved to tears during the final chapters.
Thanks to Tanis Rideout for the use of the cover image.