A review of Into the Silence
All the superlatives heaped on this book–“monumental,” “brilliant, masterpiece”, “engrossing,” “extraordinary”–are certainly well deserved. Written by the Canadian author, anthropologist and photographer, Wade Davis, this work chronicles the British expeditions of 1921, ’22 and ’24 to conquer Mount Everest. The tale centers on George Mallory, the greatest UK mountaineer of his time and the only climber involved in all three expeditions, who fell to his death during the last attempt. But the book is much more than a climbing story. Along with fascinating biographies of the major figures involved in these expeditions, Davis explores in vivid detail the effects of World War I on the soul of these men and their nation in general. Most members of the climbing parties were survivors of horrific trench warfare. Davis shows how the effort to scale the world’s highest mountain was partly an effort to heal England’s war wounds. If anything, however, the story’s inherent drama suffers from being too comprehensive. The climbing efforts were truly like complex military actions and at certain points it is easy for the reader to become lost in the many names and probes and features of landscape. Davis’s research was thorough and he obviously didn’t want to waste any of it. This will not be the last book written on Everest and Mallory, but it will remain a classic. It ends poignantly with the 1999 discovery of Mallory’s body and the enduring enigma of whether he actually reached the top.