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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Into the Silence - a review

The sub-title to this tome is The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, all three complex subjects that could be described in separate volumes but that Davis has combined a 580 page story that reads like a fantastic yarn of British school-boy adventures.

We are treated to a history of England’s elite young men, the poets and dreamers of the public-school variety as they interact in Britain’s schools, until they are called up and led away to the slaughter of World War I; the best and brightest left dead and dying in the mud of the battlefields in France and Germany defending their hearth and home. The great detail that Davis delves into on the dreadful spectacle of battle in the trenches shoes his aptitude for history, a  s does the fact finding he went to in procuring the intricate backgrounds of the climbers that where sent on the mission to be the first to conquer Everest.

In 1921 this elite group of men joined forces in India and trekked through the country, sometimes on foot, horse or yak and led a British unit of climbers assembled on a mission not just to climb Everest but to explore, chart the geography of unknown regions of the world and to explore and bring back samples of fauna and flora from the entire region on behalf of the Royal Geographic Society.

As we read we ravel with this noble group as they discover and describe the complications of a trek of this nature and learn the pitfalls that will befall this and any subsequent mission. Mallory the lead climber, who ultimately perishes upon the slopes of the grand giant of a mountain he helps popularize for the world, is a complex character unto himself and thanks be to all the historical notes and letters he and his fellow climbers on the expedition wrote we can find out now all the intrepid adventures and people they discovered on the way to the world’s greatest adventure.

A fine story told in a masterfully readable way Into the Silence shows how the British were the backbone of the world during the time of the Empire.

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