British author of the extraordinary Mendel’s Dwarf (1998) returns with a much more ordinary tale of star-crossed love.
The Welsh Guy Matthewson is widely known as a climber by the time the considerably younger Diana Sheridan—on a walking tour with friends—meets the famous man, goes climbing alone with him, stays overnight in his hotel—and falls hopelessly in love, as he does with her. But there are problems. It’s 1940, Diana will soon be a nurse in London, and not only does Guy face the trials of being a conscientious objector (though he switches later), but he’s married—to a German wife who left him two years before and returned to Germany with their young daughter. Diana can’t believe he’ll ever be free to marry her, and so ends the affair (by letter) when she finds she’s pregnant—and never tells him that she aborted their own infant daughter before entering her loveless and short-lived marriage with a doctor. She doesn’t even tell him about it when they happen to meet once more, after the war—Guy by now married to the good-looking Meg, as sexually loose as Diana is contained—and have a last passionate night of true love. All of this is told in flashbacks from the 1960s and later, in a story about the intimate friendship between Diana’s son, Rob Dewar, and Meg’s son, Jamie Matthewson. The two will climb together—Jamie will go on later to achieve truly enormous international fame—until an accident takes Rob off the Alpine faces and puts him into the art gallery business. Years pass, then decades—and only with the deadly fall alluded to by the title will past mysteries finally be revealed.
Nothing new, really (the secret kept by one generation from another may not satisfy wholly once it’s revealed), but well and skillfully done: the landscapes are wonderful, the history sharp, the climbing scenes awesome.