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

Apex hosting Canadian selections mogul event

Apex Freestyle Club along with some local competitors from the B.C. Freestyle Ski team are competing

Video: Update one man arrested in Okanagan Falls

The RCMP has requested the school go into lockdown

Okanagan Taste: Favourite food and drinks of the past year

When it comes to food and drink, the most frequent questions I… Continue reading

Christmas hamper volunteers pitch in to give back to Penticton

Volunteers begin work in preparation for Salvation Army hamper distribution

New acting vice principal for Penticton Secondary School

The Board of Education of School District No. 67 (Okanagan Skaha) announced a new appointment

What’s happening

Find out about the events happening in your community this weekend

Interior Health holding immunization clinic in Vernon Saturday

IH issues list of Okanagan meningococcal immunization clinics

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Michaels: Big Brother has become a big letdown

“You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide, but privacy should still have some appeal.”

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

Accused Shuswap drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

AHUS patient Shantee Anaquod is home for Christmas

Less than a month after receiving first dose of $750K drug, 23 year old healthy enough to go home

Most Read