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Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest Paperback – October 2, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: It’s tempting to call Wade Davis’s magnificent Into the Silence an Everest of a book. But that would be misleading. It is more like K2: challenging, technically complex, and hugely rewarding upon completion. The book starts off not with mountaineering, but with vivid, novelistic descriptions of the horrors of the First World War. Years of waste and destruction in the trenches, Davis argues, “led a desperate nation to embrace the assault on Everest as a gesture of imperial redemption.” Those who endured attempts on the summit all bore the scars of the Great War—and they were drawn to the mountain by an almost contradictory desire for conquest and spiritual ablution. At the center of it all is Mallory, whose eventual disappearance effectively closed that chapter in mountaineering. His utterance “because it’s there” became a new war cry, but he climbed for deeper reasons entirely. -- Chris Schluep --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Praise for Into the Silence:
"A kaleidoscopic account. . . . Ambitious. . . . Entertaining. . . . Extraordinary."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Brilliantly engrossing. . . . An instant classic of mountaineering literature."
—The Guardian (London)
"Magnificent. . . . Davis tells the full story behind this almost mythic story, imbuing it with historic scope and epic sweep."
—Los Angeles Times
"A masterpiece standing atop its own world, along with the classic Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer."
—Salt Lake City Tribune
"Into the Silence is quite unlike any other mountaineering book. It not only spins a gripping Boy’s Own yarn about the early British expeditions to Everest, but investigates how the carnage of the trenches bled into a desire for redemption at the top of the world. . . . At its heart, Into the Silence is an elegy for a lost generation . . . a magnificent, audacious venture."
—The Sunday Times (London)
"Magnificent. . . . Impressive. . . . A vivid account."
—The Observer (London)
"Utterly compelling. . . . Not only a thorough examination of Mallory’s determined advances on Everest, but also insight into the psyche of post-war England. . . . A mesmerizing story of the human spirit."
"Powerful and profound, a moving, epic masterpiece of literature, history and hope."
—The Times (London)
"A brilliant book. I can’t praise it enough."
"Davis has produced a magnificent, rigorously researched account of the expeditions that set out to regain glory for an empire in decline but, instead, created some of the most enduring legends of the 20th century."
"A magnificent work of scholarship . . . and narrative drive. . . . [Davis] has written far and away the best account of this seminal chapter in the epic history of mountaineering."
"Davis is a fine storyteller. . . . A deep current of sympathy runs through the book. . . . One comes away with a feeling almost of tenderness for these men, of admiration for their stoicism in the face of extreme suffering, and their willingness to risk everything for a transcendent ideal. . . . The quest, finally, is not for the summit of Everest, or even for the story of how it eluded these men, but rather for a complex and compassionate understanding of the world in which they lived and died."
—The Boston Globe
"A gripper of a read . . . Silence revives the cliff’s-edge drama of those Jazz age climbs and drives home the tragedy of Mallory’s death."
"An exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. . . . Monumental in its scope and conception it nevertheless remains hypnotically fascinating throughout. A wonderful story tinged with sadness."
—Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void
"Brilliant. . . . The product of a decade’s research, Into the Silence has two supreme strengths, the first of which is the emotional, spiritual and historical context it provides against which to understand the central events. The other is the author’s effortless knack for sketching character."
"Magnificent. . . . Fascinating. . . . To keep this mass of material from bulging out of the narrative is an impressive feat of literary organization and management."
—Geoff Dyer, The Guardian (London)
"Combining the pace of a thriller with a degree of detail as nuanced as any academic study, this is an atmospheric and exhilarating book."
—Time Out (London)
"Profoundly ambitious. . . . Impressive. . . . Monumental. . . . This is perhaps the first book . . . to survey the matter not as a record of high adventure, exploration, mountaineering technique or political history, but as zeitgeist."
—Jan Morris, The Telegraph (London)
"As breathtaking and astounding as any previous climbing literature."
"[Into the Silence] stands as a near masterpiece."
—The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"Mesmerizing. . . . An epic worthy of its epic."
—Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance
"Richly detailed, and often riveting, with vivid portraits of all the players, [Davis’s] book juxtaposes human ambition, courage and adaptive capability with the relentless realities of terrain and weather. It will stand as the definitive treatment of this subject."
"A breathtaking triumph. An astonishing piece of research, it is also intensely moving."
—William Shawcross, author of The Queen Mother
"Davis’s lucid and sometimes haunting prose, his masterly handling of a great volume of material, his vivid portraits of the astonishing cast of characters, and of places as diverse as Newfoundland, the trenches of northern France, and the Tibetan plateau, all contribute to this achievement. . . . A world apart from the gimmicks and media stunts that have surrounded the cult of Mallory and Irvine, Davis’s book stands as a fitting memorial to a story that is at once poignant and stirring."
—The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Highly absorbing. . . . A heroic attempt to capture the scale of the undertaking to conquer the highest mountain on earth."
—The Newark Star-Ledger
"In recreating their astonishing adventure, Wade Davis has given us an elegant meditation on the courage to carry on."
—George F. Will
Top customer reviews
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For some the detailed descriptions of the horrific battles of the war will be a bit much. Davis clearly feels that the waste of that war drove these climbers and includes graphic descriptions to help the reader understand that horror. If you want a book about the glory of battle, this is not for you.
The details of the expeditions are voluminous and at times perhaps more detailed than interesting. The level of scholarship here is amazing, but there are times you just want to get to the climbing. That said, the climbing is fascinating and the author's conclusions about the psyches of the climbers seem well supported. The impending sense of doom as men throw themselves into the death zone with what we would see as primitive equipment is palpable and while we know historically that the efforts will fail, at the end there is still a feeling of amazement at what was accomplished and horror at the cost. This book is not perfect but it is interesting and involving and a detailed description of a world that no longer exists.
The only problem I had was trying to sort out and keep up with the multiple personalities from the several Everest expeditions as the members were never exactly the same. This book also drives home the concept of, if you die on Everest you stay on Everest.
First, the biographies of the actors, and some of them without unduly meekness. Secondly, the integration of the actors in the war and after it.
The first world war marks the end of an era, and without Great Britain quite conscious of it, the end of its dominating power. The United Kingdom is ruined by the war, a fact not often told strongly enough. But despite it, the desire to explore and show off is present. This explains the Quest for Everest. This I find very well put in Davis's book, and missing in many others. That the stories concerning the war are ghastly is very clear. But it has to be told, and retold, all the more because very few of us have any direct experience with that war. The veterans are dead and the world altogether another. The horror should however not be forgotten. And for that I am grateful to Davis.
Much has been written on the conquest of Everest, probably too much, with undue romanticism, pathos. The actors saw it evidently without pathos, but definitely as a challenge. And this is another quality of the book: Much space is devoted not to the told-and-retold-and-reretold climbing, but to the logistic of it all, and the difficulties due to bad management (for example in selecting the most manifestly wrong persons, i.e. Kellas). The story of climbing itself has been diluted ad-nauseam already. Davis is right in making it short: no need to repeat. But what I enjoyed very much is the careful story of the expedition itself, though sometime in my view emphasizing too much the difficulties but showing clearly that it was "new land". And for who wants another view, the bibliography gives very useful indications, the first being the official report of Howard-Bury, Mallory and all. of the 1921 expedition, in my eyes the most interesting (And easy to find on archive.org)!
Altogether, a most enjoyable book, which I keep on my Kindle.....
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Davis's sourcing is meticulous and flawless.Read more