Above All Things

( 4 )


“Tell me the story of Everest,” she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. “Tell me about this mountain that’s stealing you away from me.” 

In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George’s young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire’s faded glory. Through alternating ...

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Above All Things

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“Tell me the story of Everest,” she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. “Tell me about this mountain that’s stealing you away from me.” 

In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George’s young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire’s faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This vivid, assured, and confident debut novel scales great heights of obsession and desire, both on the face of Mount Everest and in the loving bond between doomed explorer George Mallory and his wife, Ruth. Against the backdrop of Mallory’s disastrous third expedition to attempt the summit in 1924, the explorer’s tenacity and motives get thoughtful treatment, as he muses that if there was “nothing worth dying for, neither could there be anything worth living for,” while Ruth, waiting for news and caring for their three children, is torn between understanding and resentment. For Ruth, this deep need to explore the world is what made it round rather than flat, her “desire to leave home... as strongly our desire to return.” Her catalogue of George’s comings and goings is a source of pain and hope and becomes all the more poignant as Rideout offers a gripping account of the expedition. The author’s accomplished depiction of the harsh and beautiful Himalayan heights, the physical drain of the climb, the bitter, brutal cold and thin, grudging air pushes the reader forward in a gripping adventure narrative, while Ruth’s own longings and fears offer a counterpoint of a more settled but no less intensely sensual interior landscape. The inevitable, terrible end remains in sight for the reader throughout, as compelling as the mountain peak that Mallory pursued at all costs. But Ruth’s reactions, from her own sense of foreboding to her surprising fortitude in the face of deep loss, reassuringly ground the novel with the sense, as another doomed climber mused, of how “time keeps passing when we’re away.” Agent: Ron Eckel, Cooke Intl. (Canada). (Feb.)
People Magazine
Part love story, part high-octane adventure, this historical novel about doomed Everest climber George Mallory is a tough one to put down.
Library Journal
She’s a seductress and a tease, begging to be conquered. She is Mount Everest and the man in her thrall, George Mallory, is the subject of this knockout first novel from a Canadian poet. The author has exhilaratingly imagined the British climber’s third and final attempt to reach the mountain’s summit in 1924 through extensive research and attention to detail, creating an atmosphere as authentic as in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Access to years of letters exchanged between Mallory and his wife, Ruth, provide impetus for the equally compelling and only too familiar love story of a strong woman drawn to a charismatic adventurer torn between home and family and the lure of the next challenge. Why do they do it? National pride? Individual glory? Or is it some more nebulous combination of ego, guilt, and rebellion, as the author speculates? VERDICT Book group alert! Rideout has written a superb addition to the fictional biography genre popularized by novels like Loving Frank and The Paris Wife . Buy it. Recommend it. Your patrons will thank you. [See Prepub Alert 8/9/12; see also Neal Wyatt’s “Tanis Rideout’s “Above All Things” Read- and Watch-Alikes | Readers’ Advisory Crossroads] —Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
George Mallory is famous for answering "Because it's there" when asked why he kept trying to scale Everest, but Canadian Rideout's debut novel about Mallory's disastrous last climbing attempt is the story of a love triangle: a man, a woman and a mountain. After two failures, George has promised his wife, Ruth, that he is done with Everest, but in 1924, he leaves Ruth with their three small children in Cambridge, where he is a professor and part of the Strachey/Bloomsbury world, to join a third expedition to the mountain. He is 37-years-old, with movie-star looks and charm. Ruth supported his earlier attempts, but now she is jealous of his time away climbing. She is right to be jealous since the real love they feel for each other is no match for his hunger for adventure or for Everest, which is always referred to in feminine terms. Although a large portion of the novel takes place in Cambridge, where Ruth waits for letters from George while caring for her children, her domestic dramas--insecurity about her abilities as a mother, mild attraction to family friend Will, hostility toward Mr. Hinks, chairman of the Mount Everest Committee, who sponsored the expedition--cannot compete with the drama on Everest itself. George feels the need to vindicate himself on this trip after an avalanche disaster that killed seven Tibetans during the last attempt. Five members of the team have attempted Everest together before. The new member, Sandy Irvine, is much younger, still a university student and eager to prove himself, especially to George. Petty tensions arise among the men bound so closely in isolation, but there is indescribable intimacy as well as they face life-and-death challenges on a daily basis. A plodding quality slips in, the sense that Rideout is following the historical dots, but she does a terrific job describing both the extreme physical conditions and the dreamlike consciousness George and Sandy drift into as their memories of home intertwine with their moment-to-moment climb.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425268148
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 243,775
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tanis Rideout’s work has appeared in numerous publications and has been shortlisted for several prizes, including the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award and the CBC Literary Awards. Born in Belgium, she grew up in Bermuda and in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto. Above All Things is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Above All Things by Tanis Ride­out is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion a

    Above All Things by Tanis Ride­out is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion account of George Mallory’s 1924 attempt to climb Mt. Ever­est. It is still not known if Mallory’s attempt was suc­cess­ful or not.

    In 1924 moun­taineer George Mal­lory and his team tried to con­quer Mt. Ever­est, in no small part to give the war weary peo­ple of Eng­land some­thing to cheer about. Mallory’s wife, Ruth, is at Cam­bridge, Eng­land rest­lessly await­ing his return from the dan­ger­ous expedition.

    Above All Things by Tanis Ride­out is an excel­lent novel which moves at two speeds, slow (Ruth Mal­lory) and fast (George Mal­lory). Ms. Ride­out suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing an engag­ing book filled with excel­lent descrip­tions and believ­able characters.

    The parts which I found the most fas­ci­nat­ing were the climb on Mt. Ever­est. The author does not roman­ti­cized the climb, I could feel the chills, the heav­i­ness and other ail­ments which come at being at such a high altitude.

    Ms. Ride­out bril­liantly jux­ta­poses between Mr. Mallory’s cel­e­brated climb and only a day in the life of Mrs. Mal­lory. You could not help but feel the help­less­ness of the cou­ple as they missed, craved and thought about each other but were still sup­port­ive from afar.

    To the acute reader many intri­cate details are pro­vided with­out bring­ing the story to a grind­ing halt while pro­vid­ing beau­ti­ful descrip­tions of the Ever­est expe­di­tion while going into the mind of the climbers. The story is con­trasted with Mr. Mallory’s obses­sion with the moun­tain and his fam­ily, while being unable to merge them both.

    This is an inter­est­ing book to dis­cuss, the story is mul­ti­lay­ered, the nar­ra­tive is poetic and the action is excit­ing. I don’t know much about moun­tain climb­ing or Mr. Mallory’s his­tory, but I couldn’t find any glar­ing mis­takes which took away from my enjoy­ment of the story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2013

    Emotionally Charged

    One of the best historical fictions I've read in a while. I am a fan of all things "Everest" and have always been intrigued by the adventurous spirits who dare climb this mountain. I really enjoyed how the author filled in the gaps with her own imagination and prose. I became emotionally attached to both protagonists (moreso Ruth) and felt myself willing for a different outcome. Each chapter left me emotionally charged.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2014

    I have to admit that climbing Mount Everest has never been s

    I have to admit that climbing Mount Everest has never been something that I wanted to do or had an interest in.   Starting this book I had no background or information on mountain climbing.  Within the first couple chapters I was hooked.  I could not put it down. Ruth was an interesting to me as George was.   Seeing how Ruth dealt with being left behind, yet again, and raising her three young children kept me entertained.  George’s adventures on the mountains kept me on the edge of my seat.  I had to know if he would get to the next camp, would he make it through the night fighting off frostbite, and most importantly would he make it to the summit.  

    Above All Things was a slow read.  I did find myself having to go back and re-read a page or paragraph and having to page back to see exactly whose memory I was reading.   I didn’t feel like the words were always smoothly written, but yet I could not put the book down.  By the time George was making the final push to make it to the summit, I loved this book and knew I would definitely share and recommend this book.   While there is romance, there is so much more to this book.  I truly feel that men and women alike will truly enjoy reading this story. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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