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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There Will Always Be Mountains
At the outset I have to say I am an Everest aficionado. I read and see everything Everest, and read all the books many times. Mallory was and is a hero to many. This book of fiction is an homage to him in some ways. But, I must let you know at the start, that this is indeed a fictional account, and it does not follow the history we know. It takes great liberties to give...
Published 23 months ago by prisrob

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting contrafactual
This novel is a re-imagining of what Mallory's last Everest expedition might have been like for him and Irvine, and how his wife might have reacted at home while waiting for news. Everest buffs will find it frustrating, since the account it gives deviates widely from what actually happened on the expedition: the description of attempts on the summit is quite different, as...
Published 23 months ago by Phelps Gates


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There Will Always Be Mountains, January 31, 2013
This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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At the outset I have to say I am an Everest aficionado. I read and see everything Everest, and read all the books many times. Mallory was and is a hero to many. This book of fiction is an homage to him in some ways. But, I must let you know at the start, that this is indeed a fictional account, and it does not follow the history we know. It takes great liberties to give George Mallory's wife, Ruth,a voice in the life of George and his last climb.

From all accounts, George and Ruth Mallory had a great love affair. Ruth understood his need to climb the mountain, the first two times. The third time, she was not happy, he had promised never to climb again. Their goodbyes were filled with love, but not as much understanding. After all, Ruth was left at home for months at a time to deal with daily life and their children. She became a single mother, not on her own terms.

This novel is told from Ruth's perspective, all in one day. Filled with flashbacks and with the words of George ad his colleagues as they readied for and started their climb. Remember this is 1924, and they were true adventureers in the world. This was a very big deal! Well written and often told in rich detail, this is an exceptional novel in many ways. However,the historical facts were not held, parts of the climb at odds, and this was a distraction. All in all, the novel held my attention.

Recommended. prisrob 01-31-13
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting contrafactual, January 30, 2013
By 
Phelps Gates (Chapel Hill, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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This novel is a re-imagining of what Mallory's last Everest expedition might have been like for him and Irvine, and how his wife might have reacted at home while waiting for news. Everest buffs will find it frustrating, since the account it gives deviates widely from what actually happened on the expedition: the description of attempts on the summit is quite different, as is the personnel involved. Various imaginary episodes are introduced to heighten the drama and the foreshadowing of the final outcome. It's perhaps unfair to object, since this is after all, a novel, and Rideout is entitled to add and subtract at will, but one is startled by the errors in geography, such as putting the Western Cwm on the north side of Everest (p. 55). Mallory is depicted as thoroughly and relentlessly heterosexual: his hobnobbing with the Bloomsbury Set is only briefly alluded to a couple of times. On the positive side, the novel is nicely paced and develops into a page-turner, especially at the end (will he make it?). But I didn't feel that it provided much insight into Mallory's character.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Above and Beyond the Headlines, February 9, 2013
This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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Tanis Rideout's ABOVE ALL THINGS is a lovers' tale, an adventure, a tragedy and a romance. She researched the early attempts to scale Everest, and in doing so, met the other half of the story: the wives left behind to await the fate of the men.

George Mallory and his wife Ruth are the two main characters. Their relationship began in Venice. When they married, they settled in England. George had huge ambitions as a member of the National Geographic Society. He yearned to be the first man to scale Everest, not just for himself, but for England. His mountaineering takes him away so often, Ruth feels lonely, abandoned, and neglected. She is raising their three children alone (except for the household staff).

Alternating chapters between Ruth's increasing anxiety about her marriage and George's final attempt to scale the mountain, Rideout builds suspense and pathos. The team with George is well tested except for the brawny youngest member, Sandy. The sherpas know too well what can happen on the mountain. George lost seven of them to an avalanche in his previous attempt. They must throw themselves into this attempt with all they've got in money, skill, coordination of teams, and raw courage. Everest, known as Chomolungma to the Tibetans, is believed to harbor devils that throw men to their deaths.

Oxygen deprivation, frost bite, cracking and blistered lips, ears, faces, the pure exhaustion of putting one foot in front of the other, Rideout carries us to the brink with the two men selected to make the final assault.

Back home, Ruth tries to be the good British wife, stiff upper lip and no nonsense with the children. As the weeks and months pass, she loses a little more of her composure. She leans more on their family friend, Will.

With World War I having taken too many men from English villages, Ruth feels George is sacrificing too much to his quest. George must climb "because it's there."

This is a one-note love story since George is present in memories or flashbacks. The action-adventure tale is fully realized.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, better than I expected, February 5, 2013
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This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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I have read many books about Everest climbs, and as a woman, I often think about the people left behind, the risks taken, the danger courted--to what end and at what cost? Not long ago, I read a book about the several attempts made by the British in the 1920s to "conquer" the mountain, and the loss of Mallory and Sandy Irvine. So I was interested but not really expecting anything great. This book captured my whole attention and kept me up late at night reading.

The writing is strong, intense, vivid, and you can feel as if you are truly there. Many mountaineers write their memoirs about their climbs, and they do their best to capture the feel of being on a mountain like Everest, but in the hands of a skilled novelist, it is better than non-fiction!

And the interspersed chapters of Mrs. Mallory, back home with 3 children, longing for her husband, angry at being left, but hopeful, passionately in love, and fearful of what could happen, increased the suspense and the human interest.

My only quibble with the book is that the novelist has the freedom to change details, compress, move time around, invent dialogue, create interior thoughts--all fine with me. But when I read at the end that Mallory's brother Trafford did not, in fact, die in WW1, but in 1944, I felt a little betrayed, because his death was part of the motivation for quite a bit of the plot. Her explanation is that Mallory was so motivated by the loss of many other people in the Great War, which is fine, but to use the name of his real brother, but to change the facts seems to go beyond what I expect of a novel based on a true story.

Despite this one disagreement, I found this book a total success.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction At Its Best, January 16, 2013
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This review is from: Above All Things (Kindle Edition)
Beautifully written novel based on the lives of Everest explorer George Mallory and his wife, Ruth.
Tanis Rideout takes the reader along every step of the way of Mallory's epic journey to Mount Everest.
At the same time, we come to understand how difficult it is to be the wife left behind, waiting for letters from her adored husband, whilst trying to keep to the daily routines of raising three young children.
As one reads this novel, one can't help wanting to research the internet for photographs and detailed factual information about the real George Mallory. I thought this was one of the best historical fiction novels I've read in recent years. Excellent!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Read, March 1, 2013
This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept, So-So Execution, April 10, 2013
This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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My husband is a climber and an avid fan of mountaineering books, with a particular interest in Everest, which tends to dominate the genre anyway. When I saw the description for this on one Vine, I thought this was the kind of thing that both of us might enjoy. I was wrong on both counts.

First, my husband's perspective ... He didn't even make it halfway. While author Tanis Rideout manages to mostly make the sections with Mallory on the mountain suspenseful and intriguing, anyone (like my husband) who is already extremely familiar with the actual story, will be taken aback by the many (MANY!) factual discrepancies and errors in her telling of the tale. And they don't really seem to be for literary license, as I do understand this is historical fiction, not fact. But why base it one true, and well-studied, (relatively recent) events, if you're going to deviate so frequently from the actual account? And in so many ways that don't actually effect or move your own story along, but simply because? My husband said it seemed like the author hadn't bothered to do even a modicum of research, as many of the facts about the climb that she mis-stated--with, again, no drama or benefit to her own story that he could see--could have been easily checked via Wikipedia, let alone one of the dozens of books written about Mallory's ill-fated final expedition.

I did finish the book, but for me, who doesn't know the story inside out like my husband and wasn't as focused on the technical climbing details, my main issue was the pacing. While Rideout is a lyrical writer, that flowery, descriptive prose bogged down badly in the middle third of this tale. Though it both started, and finished, fairly well, the middle bit was tedious in the extreme and, I felt, very poorly paced with too much focus on a pie-eyed Ruth (Mallory's wife) mooing around back in England. The Mrs Mallory in this narrative really was a bit of an unlikable drip for me, and she rarely held my interest vs the far more gripping moments on the mountain.

And while the ending was well-written, and even suspenseful, I do believe this story is far too well known to actually have much drama about the outcome. All in all, the factual errors and the poor pacing means I can't recommend this one, despite its intriguing conceit.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done!, February 14, 2013
This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
I had read and known about Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to climb Mt Everest but Ms Rideout has chosen to tell the story of another less famous climber George Mallory. The story is told from two perspectives - Mr. Mallory's and his wife's who is back in England waiting for news. The author uses flashbacks and oxygen deprived imaginings to cultivate the narrative and make it a very enjoyable and fascinating book to read. There are a couple slow spots but they don't last long and the overall affect is unique experience.I highly recommend it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I held my breath!, July 9, 2012
By 
Rene the Bean (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
I read this book and held my breath for a good portion of it! I found it absolutely amazing that this book is the first one written by Ms. Rideout. She captured the excitement and the tension of George's climb, as well as his wife, Ruth's, sadness, worry and the extreme love between them.

The way the author skipped back and forth between days, weeks and months of George's life, but only one day in Ruth's life was absolutely masterful.

Even though the world "thinks" they know the outcome of George's failed Everest climb, this book left me with a question -- maybe he DID make it after all? I hope he did.

I really hope Ms. Rideout is in the process of writing another book. She is an amazing writer and I can't wait to read her next one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Historical inaccuracies, uneven narrative made this an average novel., May 4, 2013
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This review is from: Above All Things (Hardcover)
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George Mallory has attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest twice to obtain glory and honor for England; both times, he and his teammates have failed. After a disastrous avalanche during the second expedition, George promised his wife Ruth that he would stay home, away from the mountain. But when he is invited to join a third expedition, he is unable to refuse the call of the mountain. Ruth tries to be supportive, but she has grown tired of competing with Everest for her husband's devotion. As George pushes himself and his team to reach the mountain peak, Ruth waits, eager for letters weeks out of date, hoping each time that he'll finally send word that he's coming home.

My previous knowledge of Mt. Everest is pretty much limited to John Krakauer's account in Into Thin Air, which I read just over four years ago. I've also recently started on Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, an extremely rich and comprehensive exploration of Mallory's expeditions on the mountain. But I've only just gotten out of WWI in "Into the Silence", so the events of "Above All Things" are still many years into the future.

Even with my considerable lack of expertise, I could tell that the author had taken quite a bit of license with the chronology of the expedition. After two summit attempts, the expedition team retreats all the way to a monastery 10,000 feet below Camp VI to recuperate. They then return to the mountain peak for three more attempts to reach the summit - and all this seems to take place in less than a week. I'm pretty sure that's impossible. It certainly didn't happen in real life - the expedition had only three total attempts. The fictional visit to the monastery doesn't really add anything to the story. Near as I can tell, the only purpose was to allow the Englishmen to see a tapestry foreshadowing their deaths. That's...weak, and honestly quite pointless. It was little things like this, events that didn't quite seem authentic, that kept me from fully embracing this novel.

When it came to describing the chill of the mountain, the bitter cold that could give men frostbite in minutes, Rideout's words made me shiver. I could easily imagine the slashing wind and jagged ice, the terror of vertigo of great heights. It was exciting and terrifying. But always, at the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think: "Why?" When a Sherpa child dies from exposure, I wondered: "What's the point?" When another man dies from altitude sickness, I shuddered: "Is it worth it?" It was very hard to maintain the aura of heroism in the Everest expedition, because after a while it just seems so foolish. Why would anybody want to punish themselves by going into regions man was clearly never meant to survive? It isn't glorious or brave; by the end of the book it seems arrogance and a greed for immortality are the only things pushing Mallory forward, and it brings out the worst in him.

But obviously, there's more to his determination than that. Mallory is wrestling with the loss of his brother Trafford*, who has come to represent the entire generation of young men lost to WWI. In his mind, their deaths have become linked to the expedition; if they succeed in reaching the mountain peak, it will somehow redeem the dead. It's an attitude shared by his teammates, with the exception of the youngest, Sandy, who was too young to serve in the war. Sandy becomes interesting for this; because he did not live through the horrors of trench warfare, the deaths of the Sherpa men affect him far more than his compatriots. He is the only one who really reacts and expresses sorrow when they get sick or die. They are the only men on the team who are really developed: the other men remain bit characters who speak little and fade into the background behind the iron will and hopeful naïveté of Mallory and Sandy.

But what about Ruth? If this book tells the love story between Ruth and George Mallory, why am I not talking about her? Honestly, there just isn't much to say about Ruth. While one narrative thread follows George for weeks, through his ill-fated expedition, the other follows Ruth through the course of a single day, as she goes about her chores. It just isn't that interesting. Ruth has no personality beyond "wife of George"; she tells us constantly that she loves him so very, very much and wallows in memories of him, but not much actually happens during her day. The contrast of this extreme normalcy with the chaos of Mallory's attempts to summit ought to draw me in, but instead it freezes me out.

I wanted to like this book, but while I enjoyed some aspects of "Above All Things" the overall experience left me cold. (Ha! Sorry.)

* This is another liberty of the author's - not only was Trafford alive at the time, he outlived his brother George by two decades.
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Above All Things
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout (Hardcover - February 12, 2013)
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