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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 June 2010
Investigative journalist, David Rose, and perhaps better known mountain writer, Ed Douglas, combined to produce this perceptive biography of Alison Hargeaves (1962-1995). On the basis of her diaries, kept from as early as 1973, and from communications with family and climbers, and others who knew her, `Regions of the Heart' is a sympathetic but scrupulous appraisal of her life from childhood introduction to the great outdoors through to record setting success on Mount Everest and then tragic death on K2. `Regions of the Heart' counterbalances two previous books. First is Alison Hargreaves' own `A Hard Day's Summer' as a somewhat naïve and over-hyped account of her climbing six great north faces in the Alps in an attempt to fulfil her ambitions for fame and fortune. Second, and linked to a skewed BBC documentary, is her husband Jim Ballard's `One and Two Halves to K2', written as a supposed tribute to Alison after visiting K2 base camp with their children, but coming across as disingenuous and mercenary.

In `Regions of the Heart' the indisputable passion and talents of Alison Hargreaves as a mountaineer are honestly chronicled, alongside indications of her relationships with contemporaries. Controversy grew as Alison pursued fame and fortune in the mountains with debate on whether it was right for a mother of young children to take such risks with her own life. David Rose and Ed Douglas tackle this issue and expound on her overriding obsession with climbing. In portraying Alison Hargreaves as courageous and fearless about her sport they explain how this was something she could compartmentalize and control, though she was insecure and harboured fears in separate aspects of her life that were in the hands of others or resulting from pressures involving others. Alison Hargreaves' awesome tally of extreme Alpine ascents should have brought her more to the fore as a leading female mountaineer of her time, yet this was hindered by a lack of self-worth and indecision over her marriage. Jim Ballard was physically and mentally demanding, and his behaviour undermined any respect she deserved and did not achieve fully until her triumph on Everest. Controversy followed the decision to go straight to K2, though rather than being selfish as labelled by the media, this is interpreted as her striving to secure the future for her children. In addition to being the story of Alison Hargreaves' life `Regions of the Heart' refers to related historic events in mountaineering, and it provides an analytical examination of what climbing is about; not merely technical but also the addictive allure of mountains and the intensity of feelings engendered. In enlightening manner `Regions of the Heart' skilfully exposes how such liberating elements of mountaineering were Alison Hargreaves' escape from the complexity of her home life, and it restores damage by less well informed commentaries.
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on 5 August 2017
This is an excellent book and I read it in 2 days as I couldn't put it down. If you like biographies of women and/or adventure and/or mountaineering you will definitely enjoy this book.
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on 11 July 2016
My hero, so I was eager to read this book. The writer obviously loves her and wrote beautifully about her. Brilliant book.
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on 4 March 2015
Fascinating view into the life of one of britains best female climbers.
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on 30 December 2002
Alison Hargreaves was probably one of the most enigmatic climbers of this century. Isolated from the mountaineering community at large for the better part of her career, it was not until she climbed Everest without support and without supplementary oxygen that she got the recognition she so craved. Her solo ascent of Everest without oxygen was the first ever such summit by a woman.
Her need for that recognition was twofold. She seemed to lack personal self-esteem, as a result of her marriage to a man who was emotionally and physically abusive. She also seemed to have a lack of confidence, at times, in her innate ability as a climber, needing validation from the mountaineering community, a validation which seemed to be long in coming. Yet, it was only on the mountains that she felt in control, because her personal life was so out of control. Indecisive about what to do about her unhappy marriage, the mountains gave her hope that she would be able to secure herself and her children financially and free herself from the bondage of an unhappy union.
When she triumphed on Everest, and her future as a climber of renown seem assured, she almost immediately set out on expedition under pressure from her husband to summit K2, leaving behind her two beloved young children. While she ultimately met with success and reached the summit of K2, she descended head long into a storm with gale force winds. Sadly, she never got off the mountain, consigned to the environs of K2 for all time.
Her death created a maelstrom of controversy at the time, over the idea of a mother with two small children having put herself so at risk of leaving them motherless. Sadly, it was women journalists who spearheaded this sentiment, threatening to destroy Ms. Hargreaves' reputation in death. This was clearly a double standard, as many who die while climbing are men who are fathers to small children. Yet, in death they are not pilloried for having left their children fatherless. Rather, they are often heralded for their daring and courage in attempting to scale new heights.
This book chronicles Ms. Hargreaves' life and her love of climbing. It attempts to paint a balanced portrait of a woman so little known to the world at large, but who made mountaineering history just before her death. It explores her personal life, not only as a wife and mother, but as a person for whom climbing was her life's blood. The author attempts to understand her approach to climbing, as well as her exploits, and ground them in the context out of which they arose. It is the story of an ordinary woman who just before her death made herself extraordinary. Although the author recounts Ms. Hargreaves' life in a somewhat prosaic manner, it is definitely a book well worth reading.
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on 16 October 2000
Having read so many climbing books, this one took me by suprise. Alison seemed to have so much determination despite all the problems that befell her. The final climbs on the big 8000 metre summits seem tame compared to the climbing she did on the Alps to pay for food for her children and get her a place on a big summit trip. By all accounts a wonderful women who was one of so few who take on the high peaks. Motivating stuff and proves that all you need to acheive anything is self-will, ambition and a dose of fear to keep you moving. An excellent read and a very different climbing story.
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on 25 July 2014
Wonderful book about a fantastic woman climber, shame she lost her life on K2
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