The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air in this breathtaking debut novel of obsession and divided loyalties, which brilliantly weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return.
A captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction, Above All Things moves seamlessly back and forth between the epic story of Mallory’s legendary final expedition and a heartbreaking account of a day in the life of Ruth Mallory. Through George’s perspective, and that of the newest member of the climbing team, Sandy Irvine, we get an astonishing picture of the terrible risks taken by the men on the treacherous terrain of the Himalaya. But it is through Ruth’s eyes that a complex portrait of a marriage emerges, one forged on the eve of the First World War, shadowed by its losses, and haunted by the ever-present possibility that George might not come home.
Drawing on years of research, this powerful and beautifully written novel is a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honour, glory, and love.
Haunting story of love and obsession
My Thoughts on Above All Things
“When I was small I imagined love as something safe, something without sharp edges, only the sweeping, enveloping curves of romance and happiness. But it isn’t. Not now, anyway. There are edges and they cut.”
“Above All Things” is the story of George and Ruth Mallory. He was a British explorer, long debated to have been the first (with Sandy Irvine) to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924. She was his wife and the mother of his three children. Told from the points of view of multiple characters, the book mixes historical fact with fiction and speculation that comes together to create perfection.
In 1924, George Mallory is heading back to Everest for a third time. The last time, he promises Ruth, who is heartbroken by his decision to leave her and their children once again. But for as much as he loves Ruth and their three children, George loves the mountain. Well, maybe love isn’t the right word. He is taken by her; obsessed with her and the prospect of reaching the summit – a height that no man had ever been to. After two failed attempts, George views this opportunity as his last hope — his last chance.
Back at their home in Cambridge, the story Ruth tells unfolds over the course of one day in her life; one day in her existence without the man who she loves and craves and longs to be with. And who she feels abandoned by.
I was worried that the novel would would be overly technical when describing the the climb, but author Tanis Rideout does a really great job of painting the picture of the climb and the attempt to reach the summit in the language of someone who has never set foot on a mountain; and an even more outstanding job of portraying the humanity of each character.
Since the outcome of the 1924 attempt to summit Everest is historical fact, I don’t bad about including the “spoiler” that Sandy Irvine and George Mallory disappeared on that climb. In fact, Mallory’s body was just recently found by some climbers on Everest. (Sandy Irvine has never been found.) Regardless, I felt the loss and the heartbreak in Rideout’s novel, and I cried at the end. The narrative in enveloping, the characters are tangible and accessible and the story is 100% unforgettable. Absolutely one of the very best books I’ve read all year.
I need to return the book to the library, but I’m reluctant to part with the novel and the story. And I’m eager to read more about the Mallory and Irvine expedition. The fact that Tanis Rideout’s novel has pushed me toward seeking out nonfiction is truly saying something; it’s not my favorite genre to read and I don’t do it often. Regardless, you need to check out this book! I promise to return mine to the library so that other people can discover the story and the first novel from this author.