Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mallory of Everest, by Showell Styles

Showell Styles’ Mallory of Everest appears at first a biography, but ends up a decent recounting of the first three Everest Expeditions. After an introduction of Tenzing and Hillary climbing to the summit, Styles starts with a chapter on Mount Everest and a short history of mountaineering, followed by a short chapter on Mallory’s life up until the Everest expeditions (that's not entirely accurate). There follows a recounting of the expeditions, not necessarily focusing on Mallory, but occasionally analyzing Mallory’s motives and words.  A reading of this biography gives the impression that Mallory’s life was these three expeditions, and that he was a protagonist, but yet only a character in his own story. (Even the cover is a picture of Finch and Bruce on the North Col.) Styles’ overall account of the expeditions is accurate, at least for the time it was written, but there are better books that cover either the three expeditions (Younghusband's The Epic of Mount Everest), Mallory's life (Gillman and Gillman's The Wildest Dream), or both (Davis' Into the Silence). This is definitely a book with cross purposes. Additionally, I'm not a fan of Styles' putting thoughts into Mallory's head that have no foundation in his letters, but that he has fleshed out based on what a mountaineer "should" think.

This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier entry, which can be found here

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