This is not a book I would normally read but someone in my book club wanted to review it and I was lent a copy so I decided to give it a go. I must say it surprised me. I liked it a great deal. I have never read Jeffery Archer before. His writing is not flowery but crisp, fast paced and human. I wasn’t familiar with the story of George Mallroy, who made the first attempts to climb Everest. Archer painted a picture of Mallroy as a man that was driven, honorable, loving, a climbers climber from the time he was a small child and self confident, perhaps to a fault. But the real story and perhaps the one that kept me in was his relationship to his wife. He wrote her every day when they were apart, even from a tent at the 40 below heights of Everest. They had three children together and he seemed to thrive on his family life. He was a bit scattered, usually late and disorganized. He ended up teaching school when he couldn’t get into a PHD program at Cambridge. His wife Ruth came from a wealthy family. Her father wanted to keep them in a life style in which she was accustomed. They weren’t socialites but appeared to be dedicated to home and family.
George climbed everything, including the Eiffel Tower (he spent time in a French jail for this) and the Basilica in the Pizza San Marco in Venice. (to impress Ruth before they were a couple) He narrowly escaped from the Italian Police. When you have climbed everything there is nothing left but Everest, especially when no one has ever done it before. After the first failed attempt when he had a sense of how foolhardy it was, how unpredictable the weather was, how difficult the breathing was at that altitude, how devastating it was to lose men in avalanches, how could he go back when he knew the dangers? It seemed selfish to me for him to jeopardize his life at the expense of his children and a woman who he professed so great a love. I chalk it up to self-confidence gone awry, especially since he was in uncharted territory. He thought he was subject to different rules because of his great strength and abilities. I believe he also got caught up in the push from others who wanted him to succeed and thought he could. I recommend it even to skeptics of Everest stories.