When I chose this book, it was because I was clearly remembering the wonderful descriptions of mountainous areas which Joe Simpson had written about in 'Touching the Void'. I am delighted to say that in this book Simpson does not let me down. I have never been able to climb a mountain but Simpson is able to draw such pictures for me, that I feel that I too have seen rocks, crevasses, snow, and experienced amazing death defying mountain gales and avalanches.
And there is a moving story as well. A young man's life is changed when his girl friend plunges to her death during a storm on a mountain. They had been sleeping on a ledge, hoping to weather out the storm when she falls, not having been securely fastened to the mountain ledge. The telling of her falling is so vivid, one could imagine it happening and how we might have felt. But worse is the blame the young man attaches to himself. He is buffeted by the storm but eventually arrives at the security of a hut high on a mountain slope.
Later in life he becomes the volunteer warden and spends most of his time in the hut and makes it his home. He is able to rescue other mountaineers until one evening, with a storm brewing, climbers from the village bring back down the body of a man who has had a heart attach. Also returning to the village are two climbers, the man angry with the woman as she wanted to return and he did not. Eventually there is an amazing storm and the rest you will have to read for yourself.
This a novel of beauty encompassing man's frailty and his inability to forgive himself. I found it difficult to put down and was sorry when it ended. I had not realised Simpson also wrote novels and I shall certainly look out for him in the future.
[Review by Shirleyanne Seel]