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Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps
     

Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps

5.0 2
by Fergus Fleming
 

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In a riveting narrative of daredevils and eccentrics, Fergus Fleming gives us the breathtaking story of some of history's greatest explorers as they conquer the soaring peaks of the Alps. Fleming recounts the incredible exploits of the men whose centuries-old fear of the mountain range turned quickly to curiosity, then to obsession, as they explored Europe's frozen

Overview

In a riveting narrative of daredevils and eccentrics, Fergus Fleming gives us the breathtaking story of some of history's greatest explorers as they conquer the soaring peaks of the Alps. Fleming recounts the incredible exploits of the men whose centuries-old fear of the mountain range turned quickly to curiosity, then to obsession, as they explored Europe's frozen wilderness. In the late eighteenth century French and Swiss scientists became interested in the Alps as a research destination, but in the 1850s the focus changed: the icy mountains now offered an all-out competition for British climbers who wanted to conquer ever higher and more impossible heights, and explorers fought each other on the peaks and in the press, entertaining a vast public smitten with their bravery, delighted by their personal animosities, and horrified by the disasters that befell them. "...excellent popular history, with its proper share of mad dogs and Englishmen....Fleming's rendition is dramatic and masterful." -- Anthony Brandt, National Geographic Adventure

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Showing a remarkable ability to mix well-researched history with engaging depictions of the people who made it, Fleming (Barrow's Boys) chronicles the many frigid explorations that brought much of the world its first scientific knowledge of Europe's highest peaks. Fleming remains true to the qualities that made his first book, a study of England's frenzied 19th-century global exploration, so enjoyable. He not only supplies an abundance of information but also punctuates his facts with wit and illustrative stories. Beginning with the first Alpine forays in the early 1700s and continuing through later explorations up until World War II, Fleming outlines the prominent figures who braved the mountains' austere climate in the name of science and, more often, the spirit of vanity. The title refers to the entrenched belief that the Alps' upper reaches were inhabited by a dangerous menagerie of fairy-tale brutes. It was a sentiment that died hard. With characteristic wit, he describes a German physics professor who reconnoitered in the mountains in the 18th century and "set at rest a question that had haunted people for a long time. Yes, the Alps did contain dragons." The landscape's ethereal nature surely inspired the imagination, but eventually explorers became more concerned with bettering their knowledge and, among later English climbing rivals, besting each other. The characters Fleming discusses range from Rousseau to the Romantic poets, from genuine innovators to the "Indefatigable Bourrit," who was defeated by the elements on nearly every climb he attempted. Agent, Clarie Alexander at Gillon Aitken Associates. (Jan.) Forecast: Fleming's second book should get same enthusiastic critical reception as his first. Though the mountaineering history niche is increasingly crowded, Fleming's work stands out for its deft combination of humor, fact and Technicolor description, so strong reviews and good word of mouth should propel sales. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
This breezy, even gossipy account of two centuries of alpine adventure is a good introduction to the vast literature on the topic. Fleming gives highlights of the first ascents, disastrous falls, spirited rivalries, and, finally, philosophic controversies. Along the way he quotes extensively from climbers' journals and the classic published accounts of their exploits. The book could have been subtitled The British Conquest of the Alps, for except for the French, who first stood on Mont Blanc, the highest but not the most difficult peak in the Alps, the British dominate the story. The names in this book are a role call of foolhardy bravery and tenacity: Paccard and Balmat on Mont Blanc (1786); Saussure, Agassiz, and Forbes' investigation of glacial mechanics; Wills, who ushered in the "Golden Age" of British alpinism, atop the Wetterhorn (1854); Tyndall and Whymper's rivalry over the Matterhorn (1865); and finally, decades later, the epitome of 20th-century mountaineering, the five-day climb straight up the hellish Eigerwand by Germans laden with hardware and patriotism (1938). By that time the British had moved on to the Himalayas and people had begun to question where bravery and daring end and psychopathology begins. In the early 20th century the Alps were no longer known for terrifying wildness and romantic sublimity but had become a center for TB sanatoriums and resorts for winter sports. The "conquest" of the Alps has taken many forms. Killing Dragons, so named because of the monsters once thought to have lived in the mountain reaches, has several illustrations and is excellently indexed, but one wishes the editors had included an annotated chronology to help keep themany minor characters straight. They might also have added a better map and some diagrams of the famous mountaineering routes. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating book. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Grove Press, dist. by Publishers Group West, 398p. illus. bibliog. notes. index., Healy
MacFarlane
A fine book...tremendously exciting...
Times Literary Supplement
E.S. Turner
The feats of derring-do brought off by the pioneers of Alpinism are excellently described in Killing Dragons, but no less fascinating are the character studies of those who blended nerve and guts with sourness, choler, jealousy and general crothetiness.
London Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802197542
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
12/01/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
File size:
19 MB
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Meet the Author

Fergus Fleming is a freelance writer living in London and Gloucestershire. Educated at Oxford University and City University, London, he trained as an accountant and barrister and has worked as a furniture maker. Fergus is also the author of Amaryllis, a portrait of his aunt, and of several children's books. Barrow's Boys is published by Granta Books.

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Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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