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on 19 June 2017
As ever, Robert McFarlane's writing is beautiful and stimulating. I had not realised that he was a climber so this book combines two of his passions, climbing and wild places and a third, which I have now discovered is George Mallory, Another reviewer, Sarah O'Toole summed up my feelings about this book better than I can "His use of language to bring me into regions explored, read about and imagined often took my breath away, engaging all the senses and making me wonder what these marvels would be like to experience first hand." - I could never have climbed but I now feel I understand much Excellent.
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on 20 February 2013
First thing to say is that this book is billed as a 'history of mountaineering' in some of the spiel on the cover, which is totally misleading. It would be much more accurate to call it a cultural history of the role of mountains and mountaineering in Western Europe, and even that description wouldn't really inform anyone about the sort of thing to expect.

The book ranges from scholarly examinations of how various literary luminaries reacted to and thought about mountains, to geology and natural history, to highly personal accounts of expeditions McFarlane has taken part in, interwoven with some thrilling tales of first ascents, desperate rescues, and the like. As a whole, it does hold together well, and some of the source material he uses from past writers is really interesting. McFarlane's literary background shines through as he elucidates on Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, and Goethe's responses to the Alps, as well as more expected Naturalists and travellers' accounts, before a final lengthy chapter where he recounts George Mallory's doomed attempts on Everest in the 1920s in the light of what he's already explained about mountains in the Western imagination.

If you're looking for a book about mountaineering, or some thrilling tales of derring do, there are better books than this. If you've already read a lot of those, though, and you want a more thoughtful book which really wrestles with the questions of what is so special about mountains and why are people driven to risk their lives climbing them, then this is a unique and fascinating read. I'm probably being harsh giving 4 rather than 5 stars, but I felt, if anything, that some sections felt a little light and the writer would have benefited from a bit more length to really build on some points. I'd have gladly have read another hundred pages.
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on 3 January 2017
If you have any kind of affinity with mountains, if you're a hillwalker, an armchair mountaineer, or just someone who loves good writing, you ought to read this. Macfarlane writes beautifully, he researches wonderfully, and he has created a book that will resonate deeply with anyone who climbs mountains for any reason. But it will provide fascinating insights for anyone else who wonders why anyone would do something so pointless. One of the most beautiful things I've ever read.
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on 19 November 2013
I found much of this book rather long-winded with the author pounding on the same points over and over again. He does get the message across that our view of mountains has changed remarkably over the centuries. But time and again I found myself skimming through a chapter once I was half way through. The best part of this book is the chapters concentrating on George Mallory. It was the main reason I bought the book and it did round out Mallory's obsession with Chomolungma nicely. I'm in absolute awe of how those early mountaineers managed with kit you wouldn't trust in the Lake District nowadays. So; it's an OK read, the Mallory chapters give it an extra one or maybe one-and-a-half stars.
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VINE VOICEon 10 February 2014
A great read, this mixes a history of how Mountains were perceived (from dark, dangerous places frequented by monsters to places of leisure and relaxation) throughout history and a story of mountaineering, culminating in a fairly extensive section about Mallory and his attempts on Everest.

I'm a keen skier and love mountains generally (although a fear of heights means climbing's never going to be for me!) and I really enjoyed this book, even though it seemed a bit of a jumbled collection of mountain-related writings to an extent.
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on 14 December 2010
I stumbled across this book and the excellent reviews from other customers made me decide to purchase and i am so glad that i did. This is a fantastic book which gives the reader an overview of mountaineering history and how our view of these fantastic places has changed over the centuries from places that were feared to a place that spiritually lifted the explorer. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Mallory and his attempts to risk everything in order that he could be the first to climb Everest. Great book if you have any interest in the outdoors/exploration.
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2014
Fascinating history of man's relationship with the mountains and his motivation for climbing them. The final chapter relating the story of Mallory and Everest is slightly out of kilter with the ret of the book but interesting nonetheless.
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on 24 March 2015
I have read and re-read this book so many times at so many different place for some many different reasons - for references for studies into glaciers and landscape - into artists and authors - into the times in which it is set - and there is always something I didn't notice before.
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on 8 July 2015
I did not expect to read this book - i expected a book about mountaineering. I got far more than just that; a tour de force into how Europeans have viewed mountains, the desolate and the unknown. Totally recommend.
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on 26 April 2015
Macfarlane writes, as many others have said, like an angel, and if you have any interest in mountains then this tour of the rise of interest in mountains and why they exercise a changing hold on our imagination should be on your shelves.
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