Monday, July 13, 2015
Above All Things, by Tanis Rideout
A book from the public library, read and reviewed July-August, 2013
A fictional account of a group's effort to scale Mt. Everest. Focuses on two climbers, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, and on George and his wife Ruth.
The cover art is captivating and provocative. It seems to represent the mountain as a woman, almost like a siren calling men to danger, to risk their lives in their quest to answer her call.
Now that I've finished the book, I've learned that it is a work of fiction based on the actual events of real people. George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine did attempt to climb Mt. Everest in 1924. George's beloved wife Ruth was left at home to be single parent to her three children, Clare, Berry, and John. She was a deep, introspective woman (according to the novel). I found two quotes particularly poignant: "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." (p. 191) and "Duty is something men step inside and fasten around them, like uniforms. For women, duty is a cloak draped over us, that weighs us down." (p. 262)
Although I have no interest in climbing mountains, or even hiking, I was drawn into this book. In the middle of an Alabama hot, sticky summer, I was cold reading about their experiences in high altitude. And, I kept wanting to shout at them, "Use your oxygen! Use your d*** oxygen!" (And I'm not a cursing woman.)
Sadly, George and Sandy disappeared very near the summit of Mt. Everest. It is not known if they ever reached the peak.