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Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest Paperback – October 2, 2012
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On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip of Mount Everest’s North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain’s finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a young Oxford scholar of twenty-two with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.
In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Into the Silence sets their remarkable achievements in sweeping historical context: Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of the war that destroyed all notions of honor and decency, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain’s elite, emerged as a symbol of national redemption and hope.
Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and endurance, and a timeless portrait of an extraordinary generation of adventurers, soldiers, and mountaineers the likes of which we will never see again.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Davis's sourcing is meticulous and flawless. His insights are well-founded and as unbiased as it gets in this kind of work.
He gives us a genuine and unvarnished account of the three British expeditions to Mt. Everest beginning in 1921 and up through the tragic finale in 1924, and an equally honest understanding of and appreciation for the men on those expeditions, not the least of them George Leigh Mallory.
His descriptions of WWI and the Battle of the Somme in particular, are harrowing and provide as complete and traumatizing an understanding as anyone can get without having lived through those horrors. He then paints a vivid picture of the men's quest to seek — sadly in vain — some relief and catharsis for themselves and their country by taking on the king of mountains.
I read it on my Kindle, but I will have a copy of this on my bookshelf and I know this is undoubtedly only the first of many readings I'll give it.
For those who love to read about these adventures, his bibliography is in and of itself a gift to us all.
Wade Davis wrote a masterpiece with "Into the Silence."
The book is really several books in one:
1. A remarkable account of WWl. Some of the most heart wrenching (and graphic) descriptions of the carnage I have ever read. It was shocking and hard to read at times -- and I have read a lot of books about WWl and WWll.
2. A lucid account of "The Great Game." It covered the high points and characters without going into obsessive detail,
3. A history of the major climbers and climbs of the early 20th C., and how this tied in with WWl. The author pays particular attention to how the War affected the psyche of the nation and the climbers.
Into this mix he has astonishing and beautiful descriptions of the search for Everest, the people and their customs, and how (surprising to me) difficult it was to find a way to it.
Now for the slightly problematic elements;
As other reviewers have said, the author does go into astonishing details throughout, and especially so in the search for the mountain itself. Depending upon how much you are interested in this, it is either a strength or a weakness. Also, no matter how interested you are, it is difficult to follow the Tibet/Nepal section without a decent map. The two maps at the back of the book are utterly useless. And that is a damn shame.
This is really the only fault, for me. I liked the detail -- but decent maps would have taken the story to another level. That is an unfortunate feature of just about all Kindle books though and not specific to this one. Amazon tried to remedy this with the "magnifying" feature, but it isn't adequately implemented in this or many books to really matter much.
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