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Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest Hardcover – 6 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head; Reprint edition (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921841
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921840
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Maybe the prime minister should read it" (Stephen Frears Guardian)

"I was enthralled by Wade Davis’s Into the Silence, an account of three failed Everest expeditions leading up to the death of Mallory in 1924, which brilliantly places those feats of endurance in the context of British imperialism and the psychological aftermath of the First World War" (Ben Macintyre The Times)

"I was captivated. Wade Davis has penned an exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. 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)

"Into the Silence succeeds not only because Davis's research has been prodigious, but because every sentence has been struck with conviction, every image evoked with fierce reverence – for the heartbreaking twilight era, for the magnificent resilience of its survivors, for their mission, for Mallory, for his mountain. An epic worthy of its epic" (Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance and The War That Killed Achilles)

"Into the Silence is a breathtaking triumph. An astonishing piece of research, it is also intensely moving, evoking the courage, chivalry, and sacrifice that drove Mallory and his companions through the war and to ever greater heights" (William Shawcross, author of The Queen Mother)

Book Description

WINNER OF THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 2012. A monumental work of history, biography and adventure - the First World War, Mallory and Mount Everest

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover
There is no need to be a mountaineer to appreciate this account of the early attempts to scale Mount Everest. Wearing a Tweed jacket, making reluctant use of heavy oxygen canisters because he had seen their benefit in action, but lacking the nylon ropes, hi-tech crampons and other paraphernalia now available to reach the summit, George Mallory and his companion Andrew Irvine disappeared in 1924, leaving the tantalising question as to whether they had managed to reach the top.

This is less a biography of Mallory, more a study of the exploration in the context of the 1920s, in particular the grim legacy of the First World War, its horror and folly described here with particular harsh clarity: the British Establishment saw the conquest of Everest as an antidote to what Churchill called "a dissolution..weakening of bonds...decay of faith" plus climbers like Mallory diced with death quite casually having seen it close at hand so often but somehow survived the trenches.

The British Empire seemed to dominate the world, although the cracks were starting to show, so it was still possible for Curzon, Viceroy of India, to assert an Englishman's natural right to be first to the top of Everest! A skilful climber was forced out of one team because he had been a conscientious objector.

Since what is now known to be the easier route through Nepal was barred, the expeditions of 1921-24 approach through Tibet, encountering all the wild beauty and mystery of this unfamiliar culture, from the fields of wild clematis to the barren valley trails marked with stone shrines and inhabited by hermits whose self-denial seemed a waste of time to the mountaineers, although they appreciated in turn that the local people thought the same of their activities.
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83 of 84 people found the following review helpful By C. Thwaites on 29 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
A magnificent work which took the author over ten years to research and write. The sub-title is important. This is as much about the war experiences that shaped the men of the 1921-24 expeditions. Each one had been doctors, infantry or artillery officers in the worst of the Western Front battles. From that, they were determined, resourceful and infinitely brave. The war experiences were searing. Mallory wrote home from the front, "If hereafter, I say to a friend "Go to Hell", he will probably reply, "Well I don't mind much if I do. Haven't I perhaps been there"?

The central figure is Mallory, friend of Keynes, Graves and much of what was later the Bloomsbury set. An enigmatic figure, Davis captures the genius of the man. It is Mallory who reconnoitered and figured the route up the North Cole. Mallory who established the Camp systems. Mallory who confronted the Second Step. Any climber on Everest follows his footsteps.

Davis gives us a rich cast: Sikhdar, who calculated the exact height of Everest within 28' in 1854 from observations 120 miles away, using pen and paper; why we call it the Norton Couloir, why all parties when climbing from the North, use the East Rongbuk; Somervell, a doctor mentored by Treves, who coughed up his entire mucous membrane and worked as a hospital volunteer in India for 40 years; Finch, who pioneered Oxygen use, climbed higher that anyone at the time and was the reluctant step father of Peter; Odell who made the famous sighting and climbed to Camp VI twice in four days and slept at over 23,000' for twelve days.

The courage and determination of the men, using primitive equipment and improvising on camps and routes, is breathtaking. And contrasts with the Valley Boy insensitivity of the crew that found Mallory in 1999.

I found myself flipping to the contemporary photographs of the climbers, trying to reconcile their actions and feats with the faces looking at us from 90 years ago. This is an epic book.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Guy on 5 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wade Davis has set himself a challenge trying to write about the series of Expeditions to Everest by the British in the 1920s which eventually led to Mallory and Irvine's deaths during the 1924 summit attempt. Not only is the story long and complicated (those expecting just the story of the final expedition might be surprised by how much exploration and preparation went before - Mallory doesn't even feature until a good way through the book), but Davis is also keen to explain the motivations of those involved and the cultural importance of climbing Everest in broader terms, with a focus on the Great War and on British Imperialism.

At first, I didn't entirely buy into his focus on the War. It seemed a bit overstated, but I read on because the stories are well told and full of interesting detail - his research is really exhaustive, as the huge notes section demonstrates. Eventually, it really does knit together, and you begin to understand the thoughts and actions of the climbers very much in the light of their experience and era. I came away not only with a better understanding of the events he focuses on, but also with more knowledge about the politics and arts of the period. Davis seems comfortable writing about arts, literature, Tibetan Buddhism, and a range of other subjects which really help to add context to his story.

So in summary, a great tale, thoroughly engaging and well-paced, with interesting details and speculations throughout. One of the most enjoyable and informative books I've read in some time, and a book which kindles your interest in a variety of topics and sent me off with an interest in a string of other topics. You can't ask for much more than that...
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