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Into the Silenceby Wade Davis
Synopses & Reviews
On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip of Mount Everest’s North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain’s finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a young Oxford scholar of twenty-two with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.
In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Into the Silence sets their remarkable achievements in sweeping historical context: Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of the war that destroyed all notions of honor and decency, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain’s elite, emerged as a symbol of national redemption and hope.
Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and endurance, and a timeless portrait of an extraordinary generation of adventurers, soldiers, and mountaineers the likes of which we will never see again.
"Davis (Wayfinders), a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, tells the story of how a group of men who survived the unfathomable violence of WWI became obsessed with scaling Mt. Everest. Their quest was not for their own glory but for the psyche of their ravaged country and to reaffirm that the human spirit could soar above the inhumanity that countries perpetrate on one another on the battlefield. As with all his works, Davis relies on impeccable research to go into uncommon detail to outline a backstory that centers on the atrocities of trench warfare, English imperialism in India, and the first European expeditions into Tibet and the Himalayas. He also digs deep into the schooling and upbringing of those who took part in the first Everest expeditions, going so far as to investigate the early same-sex relationships of George Mallory. While Davis takes his time leading up to Mallory's first attempt at the summit, his own exploration experience helps him get into the minds of the climbers, the descriptions of the ascents — including the tragic 1922 attempt that saw seven Sherpas lose their lives and the long-unresolved conclusion to the 1924 climb that resulted in Mallory and Andrew Irvine's deaths — are as breathtaking and astounding as any previous climbing literature. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Davis's book, ten years in the writing, is highly absorbing narrative....A heroic attempt to capture the scale of the undertaking to conquer the highest mountain on earth." The Newark Star-Ledger
"A magnificent, audacious venture...Into the Silence is quite unlike any other mountaineering book. It not only spins a gripping Boy's Own yarn about the early British expeditions to Everest, but investigates how the carnage of the trenches bled into a desire for redemption at the top of the world. Many of those Himalayan explorers, including Mallory, had served in the corpse-ridden fields of northern France. Indeed, of the 26 men who climbed in the three expeditions, 20 had seen front-line action. Six had been severely wounded, two others hospitalized by disease at the front, and one treated for shell shock. All had seen dozens of friends and countrymen die. For these veterans, the author argues, death had lost its power....At its heart, Into the Silence is an elegy for a lost generation." The Sunday Times
"A gripper of a read...Silence revives the cliff's-edge drama of those Jazz age climbs and drives home the tragedy of Mallory's death." Outside
"The men in this story had, for the most part, been young in 1914, bright and energetic and full of dreams. By 1918 those who had survived had seen and done things that no one should have to know about, and Davis does a magnificent job detailing their experiences, setting up the rest of the story — the expeditionary saga — as a logical response, even an inspired rejoinder to the soul-destroying realities of war...it is perhaps the book's signature achievement that [Davis] keeps the narrative zipping along toward its inexorable and tragic conclusion while so thoroughly and persuasively contextualizing key events." The Boston Globe
"This profoundly ambitious book aims high itself, because it sets the subject of Everest in a specific historical context....Davis's monumental work ranges...widely through the matter of Everest, both on and off the mountain, with harrowing descriptions of life and death on the Western Front, with frank dissections of rivalries, motives, inadequacies and confusions, and measured character studies." The Telegraph
"[A] meticulous history....Culminating in detailed accounts of the ascents that astutely weigh events and controversies, this vital contribution to Everest literature should rivet readers." Booklist
"The First World War, the worst calamity humanity has ever inflicted on itself, still reverberates in our lives. In its immediate aftermath, a few young men who had fought in it went looking for a healing challenge, and found it far from the Western Front. In recreating their astonishing adventure, Wade Davis has given us an elegant meditation on the courage to carry on." George F. Will
"I was captivated. Wade Davis has penned an exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. They do not make them like that anymore. And there would always only ever be one Mallory. From the pathos of the trenches to the inevitable tragedies high on Everest this is a book deserving of awards. Monumental in its scope and conception it nevertheless remains hypnotically fascinating throughout. A wonderful story tinged with sadness." Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void
In this magisterial work of history and adventure, Wade Davis vividly re-creates Britain’s epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s.
With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic attempts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of a war that cost millions of lives, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain’s elite, became a symbol of national redemption.
Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and mountaineering, and a timeless portrait of a few iconic men.
About the Author
Wade Davis is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow and One River, and is an award-winning anthropologist. He currently holds the post of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and divides his time between Washington, D.C., and northern British Columbia.
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