52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
The story of George Leigh Mallory, a novel based on history. I had never been drawn to read about Mr Mallory prior to this. I had never read anything by Jeffrey Archer either. For some reason, when given the opportunity to read this book, I enthusiastically took it.
The story begins when George Mallory was a child living in his fathers house. His father was a conservative clergyman of limited means who wanted to provide the best possible life for his three children. For George, this included the best education he could manage.
From a young age, Gorge showed a lack of fear, and a love of climbing. His father encouraged his sons sense of adventure, even to the point of accompanying him on ever more rigorous climbs, at least accompanying his as best he could. This trust and encouragement surely contributed to the self confident young man George became.
During his years at school, he knew that his mountain climbing had to take a backseat to his education, and so it did. TO his satisfaction, there were others who shared his interests, thus enabling him to continue with what brought joy to his life, scaling mountains.
I became so invested in the people portrayed in this book, I had a hard time putting it down. I had a vague and passing knowledge of Mallory and his Everest climbs, but nothing more than that. After reading about his life and family, as well as his dreams. I am searching for more information on this clearly incredible man.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read, or is interested in mountaineering. I will be reading more books by this author very soon, as well as more books about George Mallory and Everest. A book that inspires a new interest is the very best kind of book.
47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Paths Of Glory is Archer's attempt to fictionalize the story of George Mallory and his dream of being the first person to climb to the top of Mt. Everest. It covers a thirty-two year period ranging from Mallory's childhood to his third attempt to climb Everest in 1924, at age thirty-seven. In real life, it remains a mystery as to whether Mallory ever achieved his goal, as he was last seen four hundred feet from the top. Archer does a decent job in "covering all the bases" of Mallory's life. However, in trying to pack all of the major historical events in his life in just an average length book, Archer, in my opinion, doesn't provide sufficient depth in most of these areas to create a full sense of who Mallory was and what motivated him. Further, Archer provides, at best, only superficial characterizations of the key people in Mallory's life (e.g., his wife, his children, his climbing partners, etc.). Overall, Paths Of Glory is an entertaining read -- particularly if you have an interest in mountain-climbing -- but it is not one that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat to find out what happens next. Given Jeffrey Archer's successful career as a novelist it will not be surprising to find Paths Of Glory on major bestseller lists, although be forewarned that it doesn't deserve to reach the summit of these lists.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"Paths of Glory" is a highly fictionalized biography of George Leigh Mallory, culminating with his attempt to Mount climb Everest in the 1920s.
I ordered this book by accident. I ordered what I thought was a "generic Archer novel", because I couldn't find anything else that looked interesting on the spur of the moment. I usually find sufficient flaws in Archer's sloppy writing to rate his novels at 3 or 4 stars. I dislike tales of upper class English adventure, I particularly dislike biographies, and I generally loath mountain climbing stories. So it came as a great surprise to me that I found "Paths of Glory" to be engrossing and very entertaining. The exposition is vivid. The characters are well developed and the story is nicely paced.
Descriptions of some characters are rather fawning (Archer's relatives or relatives of his friends?). Also, the stereotyped description of Americans is a bit annoying.
A very pleasant surprise. An excellent story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
George Mallory was a good man, married to Ruth, with 3 children having graduated from college and served his nation, and would have enriched many lives had he lived a full life to teach for more years than he did as was planned. But George was a dreamer and a doer. He wanted to Climb Mount Everest "because it was there". In Jeffrey Archer's PATHS OF GLORY, he writes a historical fiction version of this tale that is almost English legend. We find out more about the man but must keep in mind that in the genre of historical fiction, not all has to be as implied. George's attempts to climb Mount Everest were true and his final climb with Sandy Irvine is also from what we know. He was, after all, an amazing climber even from childhood. To reach the summit of Mount Everest was all he could think of for so long. He tried 3 times with the first two for sure being unsuccessful but the third and final are where the mystery sets in. Does anyone know if he reached the top or did he fail to get there? Perhaps, he got there but didn't make it back down. We will never know as it remains a great mystery till this day. One thing that is factual is that if he did make it,it would have been a miracle because he wore clothing and had really inadequate equiipment. One can not tell from his body what was found if he made it or not. You will have to listen to this amazing audio book in order to figure out the answer. I think although I found the book interesting, and I like Jeffrey Archer's book, this one didn't quite grab me for some reason. Perhaps it was the topic that doesn't interest me but I just found it to be an average read.
39 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2009
Is this a new trend? A recent blockbuster film--"Sherlock Holmes"--in which Holmes is not the prissy gentleman detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but a slovenly 1960's hippy, and Dr Watson is no longer a bumbling senior citizen, but a very dapper younger man. The two trade snarky insults with all the fervor of a friendship that cannot say its name.
But at least Sherlock Holmes was fictional! Now along comes Jeffery Archer and recreates a revered historical figure, George Mallory of Everest, that also bares no resemblance to the personality and career of the actual figure. This artistic license might work if he had painted an interesting portrait of this complicated man and his tragic drive to conquer the world's highest peak, but the portrait that results is a complete soap opera rewrite. His detailed descriptions of Mallory's teammates, their camp site palaver, even the geography of the mountain, will make anyone cringe who has even a passing acquaintance with this famous saga.
Mallory was an earnest Boy Scout riding the social coattails of his Alpine and literary acquaintances. He was too personally disorganized ever to be a leader of men, nor did he have the interpersonal toughness for the job. The Alpinists respected him for his astonishingly skill at rock and mountain climbing; the literati adored his physique and fey demeanor. And he was a good guy. Yet Archer has Mallory boldly taking over the Royal Geographic Society's Everest Committee selection process with the commanding forcefulness of a Sergeant Major--qualities he wholly lacked--and boldly leading two Everest expeditions once on the mountain (he was on three). It is true that Mallory was appointed "climbing leader" in 1924, but that position was a mere pat on the back and tightly supervised by Colonel Norton, who was a true leader of men.
While he has Mallory issuing ultimatums to the august governing board left and right, Archer completely leaves out one of Mallory's greatest achievements-- discovering the primary route to the top from the Tibetan side and then being the first human to set foot on Everest's mighty flanks. This first expedition to Mt. Everest--the Reconnaissance Expedition of 1921--is not on Archer's path to glory. This was when Mallory and Guy Bullock almost circumnavigated Everest seeking the best approach to its steep slopes. After five months of the most arduous exploration, Mallory and Bullock finally discovered the hidden eastern side of the North Col at the head of the East Rongbuk Glacier. And it was at the beginning of this expedition, when absolutely nothing was known about the mountain's geography, that Mallory wrote to his wife that "we are about to walk off the map." Of course that phrase is far too evocative to leave out, so Archer merely lifts it to plug into another made-up expedition.
Archer is so enamored with the politically correct Tibetan name for Mt. Everest--"Chomolungma"--that he stuffs it into all the climbers' mouths. But the term was never used by them, and first appeared on Wheeler's 1925 map entitled "Mount Everest and the Chomo-lungma Group." His tin ear is on loudest display when he repeatedly has the taciturn Noel Odell call leader Mallory "skipper."
Probably the most egregious display of political correctness (Does that help sell books nowadays?) is Archer's assertion that his Mallory had actually planned to select as his summit partner not one of the proven RGS climbers, but one of their Sherpa porters with amazing natural climbing abilities! This decision taken when even Australian RGS member George Finch was denied a place on the expedition because he was not English enough. Of course the historical realities were that while Sherpas are genetically endowed with the ability to work hard at high altitude, none of them had climbed mountains before the arrival of the English explorers and their "English air" (oxygen), and they were later taught the skill as ever more expeditions required their services.
The final description of the Mallory and Irvine's climb into history lacks even the faintest patina of reality. They leave their high camp (given as at 27,300-ft--it was actually at 26,800ft) at 5AM carrying eight hours of oxygen. 10-1/2 hours later, they are still breathing the precious gas with presumably some still remaining for their descent. The description of the summit pyramid--available in scores of Everest chronicles, is also a hash. There is no knife-edged ridge after the Second Step, and there is no "vertical rock covered with ice that never melts from year to year" with "112-ft left to climb." And, of course, both men make it to the top before perishing on the descent.
What is the point of this? It is called a novel, but uses actual names, places, and events all twisted into a Disneyesque cartoon. There is no other suggestion that this entire tale is desperately false. To further the deception, Archer prominently credits Audrey Salkeld, a real Everest historian, with "special thanks." Oh how Mrs. Salkeld must feel used!
Finally, a prominent blurb on the jacket of "Paths of Glory" reads "`A storyteller in the class of Alexander Dumas'--The Washington Post." A Google search and a search of the Washington Post's archives could find no such quotation.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have been interested in Mt. Everest and the Mallory-Irvine climb for quite some time. I have read many of the nonfiction books concerning that expedition, but this is my first time reading a historical fiction account focusing on George Mallory's life. I found the book to be both interesting and entertaining. As with any historical fiction, you are never sure which parts are actually true and which parts are embellishments. However, that does not detract from Mr. Archer's book. The basics of the story rang true with what I had read before, and his additions seem to fit in well.
George Mallory is an English legend, and the story of his last attempt on the summit of Everest with Sandy Irvine is a key part of mountaineering lore. This book gives the facts concerning Mallory's younger years and his years as a teacher while focusing primarily on his climbing expeditions. His marriage to Ruth is described in glowing terms, and the book gives you a feeling of knowing Mallory better than you otherwise would have.
The basic facts about his attempts on Everest are these. Mallory was an outstanding climber, one of the best of his generation. Reaching the summit of Everest was uppermost in his mind for years. He made three attempts with the first two being unsuccessful. The third attempt is still the great mystery. Did he and Irvine reach the top and then die on the way back down or did they fail to reach the summit? Theories abound and Mallory's body has been found, but still no firm conclusion can be reached. One thing for sure. If they did make it, it would have been an amazing feat. The clothing they wore and they equipment they used were just astonishing by today's standards.
Paths of Glory is an excellent book to read. If you want to read some of the nonfiction books about Mallory, here are a few suggestions.
Lost on Everest - Peter Firstbrook
Ghosts of Everest - Jochen Hemmleb, Larry Johnson, Eric Simonson
First on Everest - Tom Holzel, Audrey Salkeld
Last Climb - David Breashears, Audrey Salkeld
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2009
I did not realize that the cd audio book was abridged, and possibly this created the perception that the book lacked depth in character or plot development; at times it seemed like a "wikipedia travelogue"; it was like reading one of the old Landmark Books that we had back in middle school. I would think that focusing on the conflict between Mallory and Finch, or exploring the extraordinary ambivalence in Ruth's love for her husband and her reluctant aquiescence to his long departures from home, would have elevated this book to greater heights.
As an aside, I would suggest that interested readers find copies of Outside Magazine, October 1999 and National Geographic Adventure, Fall 1999 - for great articles on the expedition that found Mallory's body.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
It is a work of fiction, with perhaps many liberties taken to dramatise facts. But the build up to the historical event, the detail, and the description is amazing. Granted that Archer was not present at the time to have personal knowledge of most of what is narrated, and neither are there public records for many of them, but he has crafted a tale so gripping and magnificent that it makes you believe, absolutely, that it was Mallory who did it first! I am awed by this storytelling for this fact alone. Archer has written a novel that makes you believe what must have happened, and how. It may amount to romanticizing an idea, but how! Excellent read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
This is a book where the author becomes the book. I've never had any interest in the subject of mountaineiring and I don't realy know why I decided to buy this book. But the fact is that Mr. Archer is the master of the masters when telling a story. His touch is unique and the result is fantastic. I gave it 3 stars because I realy didn't find the subject an atractive one, but the storytelling is what makes it worth. For those who have read other Jaffrey Archer's books I recommend this one to be in your "to read" list. You won't regret.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2011
Form: Historical Account written as a novel
Content: Actually, quite interesting, there was an english guy who 1929 or so arguably
reached tip of Everest and died on his way down. His grandson triggered the writing of
this account. Personalities are historic and larger than life, shaped by the Great War.
Unimaginable hardships and will to go on for today's times
Target Audience: As climbing freaks go, if they don't know that story, it's a MUST read.
Otherwise, maybe average volume at most.