Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guest Blog - Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer

If I had not recently read Archer’s book A Prisoner of Birth, I probably never would have picked up Paths of Glory. When I read the jacket teaser, I was hooked. I am not at all familiar with mountain climbing. In fact I have felt mystified when I have heard news that another mountain climber has died on his way up or down a mountain. Why put your life at risk for something that seems of no real merit.

Of course, I had heard of Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first man to stand on the top of Mount Everest, but I had never heard of George Mallory. I soon began to learn more.

Archer started doing the research and writing of Paths of Glory while he was in prison. As he said, he didn’t have much standing in the way of reading all day long. After doing extensive research, he wrote a fictionalized version of Mallory’s life.

I will not spoil it for you by telling you that Mallory might have reached the top of Everest in 1924 and died during that attempt. It is a matter of record that he was last seen only about 600 feet below the summit. Mallory and his climbing companion, Andrew Irvine, never returned from their effort to "stand on the top of the world." In 1999 a search party found Mallory’s frozen body. The label on the back of his shirt clearly said, “George Mallory.”

I spent a lot of time reading the book wondering what was fact and what was Archer’s imagination. The book is engaging and easy to read, but I wondered if Mallory really was arrested while climbing the Eiffel Tower one night. After reading odds and ends on the internet about Mallory, there seems to be no doubt that he was a charming man who had a gift for climbing, a burning desire to "conquer" Everest, and an extremely supportive wife.

You can’t go wrong reading this novel/biography. It took me longer than I expected to read it simply because I had to stop and look up information on the internet, including some interviews with Archer. Archer may be of questionable character in real life but he certainly knows how to tell a story. My one disappointment was that Archer did not include a bibliography. I would have enjoyed being able to look at some of his sources.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Elaine said...
Yesterday's London Times has an article about a new exhibit showing photographs from Mallory's first attempt on the summit of Everest.