Most helpful positive review
100 of 102 people found the following review helpful
My single favorite work of non-fiction
on February 21, 2001
I picked up this book by chance, captivated by the title and by the jacket. Since I first read it seven years or so ago, I have returned to it time and time and time again. (Indeed, I am using sections of it in a course I will be teaching soon on men and masculinity).
The publishing world has seen a plethora of non-fiction books on tragedies and natural disasters in recent years, with "The Perfect Storm" and "Into Thin Air" perhaps the most successful. But those two bestsellers pale in comparison with the subtlety, the grace, and the sheer power of Maclean's story of discovering what happened to a dozen young firejumpers on a steep Montana hillside many years ago. In the final fifty pages, as remembrances of survivors mix with a technical discussion of wind and flames, Maclean's prose is so vivid, so pure, so unadornedly beautiful that I had to put the book down three or four times because my eyes were filling with tears. 'Tis a rare work of non-fiction that can do that!
I am a deeply urban person. I know nothing of forestry or firefighting. I have never been to Montana. And I was gripped by this book from start to finish, even as Maclean skilfully avoids even the slightest shred of bathos or melodrama. It is a marvelous meditation on heroism and death, and on masculinity itself, and well, well worth the read.