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Ney Elias. Explorer and Envoy Extraordinary in High Asia
Ney Elias. Explorer and Envoy Extraordinary in High Asia
by Gerald Morgan
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars famously unknown, 28 Mar. 2013
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I stumbled across the name Ney Elias when reading about Younghusband. This name was not familiar to me, but the link made me curious and I thought I would find out more. This book is the biography of Ney Elias and the author has done a stirling job relating as much as is achievable about a man whose significant achievements seem so hidden or unadvertised. Elias didn't write books about himself or about his numerous adventures and the author is left with little snippets from other adventurers, and Indian government officials of the time, and his reports to the Geographical Society.

With very few tell tale signs about his personality, the author has told the story of his life and adventure without being able to paint a picture of the person himself. having said that, I felt that it was easy to conjure up a mental image of the type of person Elias must have been. The author does pad the story out with a lot of geo-political history pertaining to the time and locations of Elias's various expeditions. For some this might not have been what they are looking for in a biography. For me, it helps to place the person in a time and culture and brings alive events that are really fascinating and perhaps quite an important, although largely forgotten part of our history.

Given the material available, I think the author has done really well with this book and would recommmend it to others who have an interest in that period of history or of the exploration of central asia.


The Lost Men: The Harrowing Story of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party
The Lost Men: The Harrowing Story of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party
by Kelly Tyler-Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable story, 16 Mar. 2013
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Of this transantarctic expedition many of us know of the exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton. With the loss of the ship in the Weddell Sea the Endurance expedition is famous. Suffering great hardship in their plight and making their way to Elephant Island and South Georgia before ultimate rescue, this epic adventure has been told in numerous books.

Kelly Tyler-Lewis has set the record straight by writing a compelling story about the other half of the same expedition. The Ross Sea team went south to lay depots as far as the mighty Beardmore Glacier. These were placed to provide supplies for Shackleton having already crossed the pole and carrying out the second half of his march across the continent. Shackleton never got there, but the Ross Sea party fulfilled their side of the bargain. Like Shackleton's team, they suffered great deprevation and endured unbelievable hardship in achieving their objective. Unlike Shackleton's team, they didn't all survive.

This book flows well and the author's research has helped to tell the tale well. Tyler-Lewis has put the recoprd straight in this fantastic book, which I would highly recommend.


The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857
by William Dalrymple
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Indian uprising, 13 Mar. 2013
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This is a fascinating story and an important episode in the history of the British Empire in India. Let's be honest, the main thrust of this book concerns British occupation and the discontent of the native population - ultimately the Indian Mutiny.

Dalrymple has clearly carried out an enormous amount of research in writing this book. It must be very difficult for an author to decide just how much detail is required - where one reader may simply want an overview or summary of events, another may relish reading about the small details. Therefore there is always that element of subjectivity. However, clearly there needs to be sufficient information to build up the sequence of events, give a flavour of the culture (or clashes of culture), of what life was like at that time, and even the politics. I always think a book has been well written if the reader can imagine himself there whilst reading it. For me this was the case and I think the author has written a great, if lengthy, book.

Certainly this is not a period of our history that we can be proud of or one that we want to repeat. Nonetheless, histroy does seem to have a knack of repeating itself. A very good book and weel worth the read.


Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings
Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings
by Jeremy Bernstein
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly unheard of, 19 Feb. 2013
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The name of Warren hastings keeps coming up in things I have been readong over the last couple of years. I feel so poorly educated. Maybe it's because the days of the raj and british Empire are so long past. Maybe it's because we are too embarassed or ashamed. Either way, the awareness of the empire is great, the knowledge is limited.

The book places Warren Hastings in the period and gives a flavour of the time. We learn about his family and early years, his growing up and going to India. His time in India is described, but perhaps skipped through fairly quickly in some parts leading up to him becoming Governor-General.

Inevitably the bulk of the book focuses on the build up to the impeachment and the ensuing fiasco that was the hearing. Bernstein has clearly carried out an in depth research to this story. The machinations and behind the scenes maneourvering are quite incredible. How our governing system could possibly have allowed such a thing to happen in the first place is extraordinary enough, to have permitted the circus to continue for such a long period encourgaes ridicule.

Bernmstein has written a very readable account of a man who was treated so abominably after holding such high office and serving the nation so fastidiously for so many years. Warren Hastings has seemingly been overlooked in history and this hopefully goes some way towards redressing this issue.


Bradley Wiggins: My Time: An Autobiography
Bradley Wiggins: My Time: An Autobiography
by Bradley Wiggins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5.0 out of 5 stars so that's Brad, 18 Feb. 2013
I was surprised to find myself reading this book, but actually found myself really enjoying it. It's easy to read and flows wells. Although there is a very brief potted history about Bradley Wiggins earlier years, this is essentially about his successes in 2012 and the two or three years leading up to it. The detail about training and performance are told at such a level that is clear and understandable to the layman. Luckily it is not heavily loaded with overtly and excessively technical cyclo-babble, but written in a simplistic, almost naive, way which makes it all the better for the reader.

2012 was definitely a memorabel one fro Bradley Wiggins and his cycling success has been rightly capped with what I would suggest is also a successful book. It reads well, gives a real flavour of the personality of the man, not always easily discerned from media or press reports,and his phenominal achievements. Well done brad.


K2: The Price of Conquest
K2: The Price of Conquest
by Lino Lacedelli
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Vindication at last, 3 Feb. 2013
Half interview, half analysis, this is the story of the first ascent of K2, the mountaineers mountain. A great event that deserved great celebration but was tarnished by egos and prejudice. There have been few books about this expedition other than the offical, and biased, report by Ardito Desio, the expedition leader.

We don't get to understand all the finer details of the expedition, but the essence is clear. There is a suggestion of resentment towards Bomatti from Compagnoni (and possibly Desio too) and evidently events conspired against him. Certainly a decade later Bonatti found himself having to defend his actions high on the mountain. Lacedelli's account makes it clear that Bonatti was not at fault and is exonerated. This is a very quick, but worthwhile, read that gives a good incite into the machinations of the more powerful members of the team and the subsequent betrayals.


High Endeavours: The Life and Legend of Robin Smith
High Endeavours: The Life and Legend of Robin Smith
by James Cruickshank
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Surpasses expectation, 3 Feb. 2013
This is a book I've been tempted to buy and read a few times over the years, but not been inclined to until recently. Robin Smith may not sit in the British mountaineering hall of fame in the same way as Whymper, Mummery, Young, Mallory, Shipton, Tilman, Hillary, Bonington, Whillans, Scott, Venables, Fowler and so on. Many who have climbed in Scotland will have heard of Smith's Route and may have wondered where this name originated. Now you know. Of course there are other less obvious routes, including the first British ascent of the Walker Spur, and the book tells the tales well of Smith's seemingly inexhaustible exploits in Scotland, the Alps and even south of the border.

To have been selected for the 1962 joint UK/Soviet Pamirs expedition led by Sir John Hunt, of Everest fame, and a bunch of other mountaineering worthies, says much for Smiths achievements and where that placed him in the minds and eye of the British climbing establishment. It is sad that he should have perished, on descent following the successful first ascent of Pik Garmo, tied to the same rope as another famous mountaineer, Wilfrid Noyce. Who knows what Smith may have gone on the achieve had he not died so young?

I really liked the fact that the book was written by his old school friend Jimmy Cruikshank. He has researched extensively to put together the story of Smith through excerpts from numerous people who shared their lives with Smith. The story brings out both the achievements that Smith made in his short life, and also his personality (both frustrating and endearing). His achievements were not limited to the mountains as he clearly had a very sharp mind and was due to progress to study for a phd in philosophy.

Smith brought an energy to the climbing community and is missed by many. His name can now be recognised for the innovation and achievement in his own time and should join those mentioned above. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others to read.


The Alpine Journal 2012. Volume 116
The Alpine Journal 2012. Volume 116
by Stephen Goodwin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.00

5.0 out of 5 stars the definitive UK review, 20 Jan. 2013
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This is a great book to read - and not just because I am mentioned in it. In short chapters, each outlining a different expedition and authored by a different person. This is the one book published in the year that puts together the principle climbing achievements (mostly British). It can be read from end to end or simply one review at a time, or even just picking out those expeditions or climbing reports that hold a personal interest. For me, all 439 pages held an interest.


Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer
Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer
by Patrick French
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars adventure and misadventrure, 20 Jan. 2013
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I was lucky enough to have my own adventure in Tibet in 1993. Crossing through thousands of miles of forbidden territory across Tibet, I developed a love of the country and its people. It was during my time in Gyantse (Tibet) that I heard of Younghusband for the first time. I possibly should have known more about it, but was more captivated by the inaccessibility and mystery of the country. When this book was first published I bought it and learnt about this great Imperial adventurer. I didn't feel I liked him much, with his colonial and jingoistic tendencies.

I have just read the book again. Having read more widely about Tibet, the Great Game and exploration of Central Asia I wanted to refresh my knowledge of Younghusband. Not only did I feel more forgiving of Younghusband this time, I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. I found it difficult to put down. This is a really well written biography and the style almostr incorporates an element of travelogue with French retracing Younghusband's steps. It's an approach that I enjoyed, as it keeps the reading fresh and the events of a hundred years ago in a modern context.

Younghusband certainly filled his life to the max. The diversity between his activity and attitudes before and after the invasion of Tibet is marked. Patrick French has left no stone unturned in trying to paint an accurate picture of a complicated person at an interesting time in history at the end of Empire


The Wreck of the "Batavia"
The Wreck of the "Batavia"
by Simon Leys
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a shortened version, 27 Dec. 2012
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This book just cannot match Mike Dash's Batavia's Graveyard, but the stroy is an interesting and gory one nonetheless. It is very short and written in brief. This doesn't detract from the essence of the story and the hardships they endured, not to mention the barbaric things that went on once grounded.

I hold a fascination for the story and cannot imagine how life must have been in those days. I can only imagine that it was so much more savage that things could then descend to the level of sneseless violence that ensued. It is incredible that this story actually became known and didn't simply disappear with a ship full of people wrecked off the coast of Australia (at that time 'uninhabited').


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