‘Paths of Glory’ a Mount Everest mystery

  Sir Edmund Hillary is one of those great legends of the 20th century, because he accomplished one of the great feats of the 20th century — becoming the first human (along with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay) to scale the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, in 1953. He died last year at the ripe old age of 88.
  Since then, tens of thousands have climbed the majestic, 29,000-foot Himalayan mountain in Nepal, and some have died trying to climb it. Jon Krakauer’s best-selling “Into Thin Air” chronicled a fatal expedition of Everest in 1996. The mountain, seemingly, has had ass many tragic stories as it has had successful ones.
  Count George Mallory’s story as one of the tragic ones.
  Mallory was a famed British mountain climber and explorer in the early 20th century who tried to climb Everest three times. He failed all three times, but it was the last one that created a modern mystery. In 1924, when he was 37, he led an expedition up the mountain. He and his partner, Sandy Irvine, were last seen 600 feet from the top, climbing up in good weather. When they failed to report the next day, some members of the team went looking for them but never found them. They had perished, but the bodies were never found.
  That is, until 1999. An American-led expedition found Mallory’s body at the 26,000-foot level. Irvine’s body hasn’t been found yet. The find has ignited a debate within the climbing community as to whether Mallory was really the first one at the top. The world may never know.
  Enter Jeffrey Archer. The best-selling British author has taken this mystery and made it his own with a riveting novel about Mallory, “Paths of Glory.” Most of the book reads like a biography of the explorer. Mallory’s life was well-documented, since he had become a
national hero for almost making it to the top on his second expedition. He kept meticulous details about his climbing life (and his marriage to Ruth and three kids) through diaries and other documents. Mallory and his ill-fated climb faded into obscurity after Hillary’s accomplishment.
  “Paths of Glory” begins with the 1999 discovery and then flashes back to the late 19th century and the beginning of Mallory’s life. The exuberant young Brit had an unnatural climbing ability, and he was climbing the tallest peaks in Europe by 20. Mallory even
survived a stint on the front lines in World War I. In an age of discovery where Brits and Americans were racing to get to the North and
South Poles, Mallory and a team of expert climbers were sent by the British government to conquer another mysterious wonder
of the world — Mount Everest.
  The first expedition fell short of expectations, and the second one in 1922 came tantalizing close before exhaustion and storms buried their efforts. Immense peer pressure from Britain and his own self-absorbed quest for glory led Mallory to his third and fatal trip up Everest.
  Archer writes a tight, compelling narrative that follows Mallory through his school years and his many trips up European mountains.
Mallory led a very exciting life, and Archer has a lot of material to work with. He includes many diary entries from Mallory to his wife Ruth that give the story a powerful personal and emotional feel.
  Of course, “Paths of Glory” is a novel, so readers know what is coming — does Archer allow Mallory to make it to the top of Everest? And if he does, what does Archer think what happened on the way down?
  It’s a fascinating story, and thanks to the creative license offered through the genre of historical fiction, Archer completes it in his own
reverential way.

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