Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
on 4 December 2013
This book was a massive disappointment to me. It probably deserves 3 stars on it's merits but I was expecting so much more. The author writes very well and his experiences and achievements on Everest are not to be undermined in any way, but........:
Firstly, it reads like Graham Hoyland talks his mountaineering with Mallory and Irvine as an aside. That's fine if the title was Graham Hoyland does mountaineering but it isn't. I didn't really want to hear about how he exercises his demons, I bought the book for new insights on the Mallory and Irvine mystery.
Secondly, maybe I'm being harsh but the author comes across as terribly privileged. High altitude mountaineering and yachting (his latest passion as we find out) are out of the income range of most. His BBC connections and marriage to an MP on the backs of horses from his pwn stables add fuel to this fire. We can't blame the man for being born into wealth but his resultant attitude then rankles. He laments/moans (dependent on your standpoint) how he was denied a book deal when Mallory's body was found because another got a book deal. I'm a student of the mystery and have similarly profited from writing about it (on a very small scale compared to our author here). Numerous books were published at the time. Nothing was stopping the author publishing at the same time. It sounds like his wealthy publishing friends declined to publish him at the time.
Also, he sounds very bitter that an American team actually found Mallory and he again moans about their supposed mistreatment of the body and how images of the body went worldwide. Thankfully the Americans shared the revelations with us plebs and didn't keep too many intimate details amongst an elite few as the author would have preferred.
Quite honestly, the supposed new revelations that the author presents aren't earth shattering. He's shifted his position but has clearly done so because a friend at HarperCollins has commissioned this work. When he was with the team that found the body in 1999 his position was different to the one he presents here. As supporting evidence for this shift he cites his own experience as a summiteer and how difficult it would have been for ignorant 1920s climbers in limited clothing. He knew all this in 1999 and this doesn't account for a shift in opinion. Anyone who watches the author in the 1999 documentary, Lost on Everest, can see his clear passion and belief that the mountain was first climbed in 1924. His shift in opinion seems somewhat shaky given the evidence presented here.
Furthermore, he somewhat arrogantly claims that he knew the location of Mallory's body well in advance of its discovery through some private family conversations with previous Everest mountaineers (the author's uncle was Howard Somervell). If it was really that simple you have to wonder why the author didn't go to the body location some years before when he himself summited the mountain. After all the Mallory mystery was supposedly an obsession. It all quite frankly stinks of fabrication to justify another book on the Mallory and Irvine mystery when there wasn't really much more to add.
I would personally like to read Jochen Hemmleb's latest book, but I've only seen it available in German. Our author here has subtle digs at Hemmleb because he hasn't climbed high on Evererst and can't therefore appreciate the terrain and demands of the undertaking. The author seems to be rankled by Hemmleb's studious and in depth knowledge of the subject rather than embracing him as a fellow enthusiast. Anyway, as a full time athlete and strength and conditioning specialist I can advise the author that his stance on this matter is wrong. You don't necessarily need to have competed in a specific sport to understand the physical demands (granted it helps). He seems to dismiss the drive of the truly driven sportsman. I think Hoyland understands all of this, but it doesn't suit the purposes of the book he has been commissioned to write.
Other reviews have gone as far as to say this is the final word on the subject. Far from it. Still, for hardcore students of the mystery it is still worth a read.