ARMCHAIR BOOK CLUB: Adventure book is perfect summer read

Penticton book reviewer Heather Allen gives her thoughts on Above All Things by Tanis Rideout.

Decades before Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, a British expedition tried to reach the highest point on earth.

England was in a frenzy to prove its might. The Norwegians were already the first to the South Pole; the Americans had claimed the North Pole. George Mallory and his British team desperately wanted to capture the third pole — Everest.

It was just after the First World War, and the entire country followed progress reports of the climb, gripped by Everest fever. But since Hillary is a household name, and Mallory is not, we know how the story ends. But what happened along the way?

Above All Things by Tanis Rideout is the tantalizing story of Mallory’s summit attempt. She combines fact with imaginative fiction to solve the mystery of what went terribly wrong on the expedition. Mallory’s battered body was discovered in 1999, more than 75 years after his climb, but still little is known about his final ascent – or if he possibly reached the peak.

Mallory was dressed in a wool sweater, wool socks and simple leather boots. It’s hard to imagine how he could have endured the extreme cold in little more than tweeds. Other equipment choices were also hard to fathom. In colonial fashion, the group of climbers were accompanied by 100 porters whose cargo included bottles of champagne and a victrola.

Mallory famously said he wanted to climb Everest: “because it’s there.” Many loved ones back home, who had recently lost brothers and sons to the war, didn’t agree that risking death to climb a mountain was a wise choice.

In fact Ruth, Mallory’s wife, begged him not to go. Her story of waiting at home is interspersed with the narrative of the climb. In lesser hands this would be a difficult juxtaposition, but it works. Focusing on life in England keeps the question alive: Was the expedition worth it?

Hints of the future are also woven into Above All Things. At one point Mallory kicks a spent oxygen tank down a slope — the beginning of the troubling piles of garbage littering the mountain today. Porters and climbers alike died on Mallory’s expedition, foreshadowing the hundreds who have lost their lives trying to climb the mountain since then.

For those who love a good adventure story, a romance, and for climbing buffs and Everest enthusiasts alike, this is a perfect summer read. The descriptions of excruciating cold alone are enough reason to pick up Above All Things on a hot summer day.

Heather Allen is a reader and writer from Penticton.

Just Posted

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

Rollover closes road

No serious injuries reported in a rollover off South Main in Penticton

Raven story shines light at Children’s Showcase

Season opener of the Children’s Showcase in Penticton

Student leadership conference hits home

Nearly 500 Grade 5 students taking part in leadership conference in Penticton

Penticton dancers headed to Germany for world championship

Penticton dancers representing Canada at World Dance Championships

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Berry disappointed: Bear tries to eat fake fruit on woman’s door wreath

A Winnipeg woman has taken her berry-embellished wreath down, after a hungry bear visited her porch

B.C. search groups mobilize for missing mushroom picker

Searchers from across the province look for Frances Brown who has been missing since Oct. 14.

Have you heard about Black Press scholarships?

Up to 37 scholarships are awarded each year to students throughout British Columbia

Most Read