From Publishers Weekly
When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, British mountaineer George Mallory famously replied "Because it's there." For William Bromley, narrator of this vivid, elegant novel, the reasons for scaling Carton's Rock, a formidable pinnacle in the Italian Alps, are more complex. By 1950, his WWII service as a Royal Marines mountaineering instructor behind him, Bromley has settled down. He teaches at a London boy's school, he reads and on Fridays he gets drunk at the club with his best friend, Stanley. The resurfacing of an old climbing partner—a participant in a disastrous wartime mission, which Bromley led, to install a radio transmitter atop Carton's Rock—triggers guilty memories. And when Stanley's uncle Henry Carton, a renowned former climber, commits suicide and asks, as his last request, that his body be taken to the top of his namesake mountain, Bromley, seeking absolution, sets off with Stanley for the Alps. The final third of the novel details their gripping journey as they confront avalanche, hidden crevasses, and lost gear and food, all the while lugging Carton's coffin up the glacier. Watkins (The Forger
) is fluent in "the languages of rock and cloud and ice," and his empathy creates a clear portrait of a man refusing to be undone by the past. (Jan.)
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William Bromley teaches history at a London boarding school, trying to keep war memories firmly in his past even as they threaten to destabilize the quiet life he has made. The occasional flashback and his altered consciousness are the only signs that a failed World War II expedition of boyhood friends to the Alps under his command still haunts him. Bromley and his friend Stanley Carton have formed the Society of Former Mountaineers, mocking the trendy patrons of mountaineering at their club. The death of Stanley's uncle, Henry Carton, renowned climber and Bromley's former mentor, compels the two young men to take up a new mission. Bromley is challenged to the physical, mental, and emotional trials of climbing the deadly Carton Rock. Despite his trepidation, Bromley hopes the mission will get him out of the "streams of time" that have him caught between the past and the present. Watkins evokes the alluring beauty and treacherous danger of mountain climbing as he details the little-known role of the mountaineering corps in the war effort. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved