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matthew hampton (London, United Kingdom)

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Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps
Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps
by Fergus Fleming
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stirring stuff, 16 Feb. 2004
I agree this is a thoroughly entertaining story, engagingly told.
I don't think it suffers at all by comparison with Jim Ring's book - I bought them both in a double purchase and in fact enjoyed Dragons more, simply because of its more anecdotal and witty narrative style. Ring's account - the rather more cheekily titled How the English Made the Alps (not "British" as described above) - is also well worth a read if you're interested in the subject. And for anyone put off by the Anglo-centric title, the author makes his excuses clear in the preface.
Killing Dragons gets off to a good start with the struggle to ascend Mont Blanc, and the eccentric characters determined to find fame doing so. The contrast here between the calm and worldly Saussure with the vain and faintly ridiculous Bourrits (father and son) is highly entertaining; as is the account of Balmat and Paccard's arduous ascent and fractious relationship. But it's the rivalry later on between Tyndall and Whymper on the Matterhorn that really grabs the attention. Stirring stuff.
Ultimately, I would have liked to see more detail on how the modern climbing/ski industries have changed the Alps - for better or worse - but to be fair this is really another book. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the mountains or exploration.


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