George Leigh Mallory: The First to Summit Everest?

Rating 4/5

George Leigh Mallory

For most of you, that name does not ring a bell (Unless you’re a mountaineering enthusiast of course, or just a rare brainiac). You are however, in all likelihood, familiar with the names of Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer from New Zealand, and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa who made the journey with Hillary, the first 2 climbers to conquer the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. Little is known about the brave man, George Leigh Mallory, who in 1924, led the 3rd expedition from England to reach the summit of Everest. Mallory and his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine disappeared in June 1924, and whether they reached the summit or not has been a cause for much speculation since they disappeared 92 years ago.

Jeffrey Archer, a former British politician, has written a page-turner with George Leigh Mallory as the charismatic Protagonist, titled, Paths of Glory. Mallory is positioned as a devil-may-care gentleman who seems to scale the most domineering mountaintops with little regard for failure. Although Archer’s writing style leaves for something to be desired, he has a flair for fluffing up the facts to deliver tones of adventure,  and creating dramatic hooks that leave you hanging and hungering for the end. And while the world has yet to  find out whether George Mallory and Sandy Irvine reached the summit in 1924, Archer ends his narrative having taken a side. The facts that have been uncovered over the years are presented with much pzazz to deliver a cast of characters who are true to their roles and remain, to the very end, very convincing. Mallory’s family and friends are constructed as integral characters to the story, and Archer shows a lot of respect to Mallory’s Expedition team and his beloved wife, Ruth Mallory.

The relationship between Ruth and George Mallory provides for much heightened drama as it weaves together a roller-coaster of emotions that take the reader on the journey of a wife longing for her husband, and a man torn by the ache to be with his family and the relentless desire to achieve his ambition.

This was an adventure that spear-headed my need to research more about the 1924 Expedition to Everest, and George Mallory’s Life. There is much information out there, and most of it says the same thing, but George Mallory seems to exude a mystery and elicit desire to know what happened to him on his journey up the mountain. Mallory’s body was found in May of 1999, 75 years after he disappeared, by a team of American climbers. There is fascinating video footage shot by the team upon the discovery:

And while Archer’s book is but one way to reconcile the mystery around the final moments of Mallory and Irvine, Archer leaves his readers with a feeling of awe, thoroughly honouring this fascinating and skilled mountaineer who tried to defy the limitations of his time, and conquer a giant.

If you’re looking for dexterity of writing style, this is not the book for you, but if you thrive on adventure and mystery, then this is a must-read.

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