INTO THE SILENCE

THE GREAT WAR, MALLORY, AND THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST

Anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Davis (The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, 2009, etc.) exhaustively charts the first epic assaults on Mount Everest by determined Englishmen after the devastation of World War I.

Britain had resolved to be the first to scale the as-yet-unexplored reaches of the highest mountains in the world since the empire’s first surveying forays into India and Tibet in the mid 19th century. Then, the discovery of Everest’s actual height was first established and named after a geographer responsible for the Great Trigonometrical Survey of 1829, Sir George Everest. In this ambitious study, Davis eventually arrives at the first expedition of 1921, sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society but delayed by the war, which had traumatized and practically eliminated an entire generation of young people in England and Europe. For shell-shocked veterans, Everest signified “a sentinel in the sky, a place and destination of hope and redemption, a symbol of continuity in a world gone mad.” Enter George Mallory (1886–1924), a graduate of Cambridge, young husband and father, veteran and accomplished climber, who was chosen to head the first exploratory mission up the North Col in 1921, only to be driven back by the summer monsoon. The reconnaissance mission was followed by two others shortly after, organized again by the Alpine Club. The expedition of 1922 was filmed by John Noel and employed oxygen for the first time, controversially; it ended with the highest climb by George Finch but the death of seven Tibetan assistants in an avalanche. Yet again, in 1924, the familiar team attacked Everest, and with Mallory claiming he was “the strongest of the lot, the most likely to get to the top,” he set off with the much younger, inexperienced climber Sandy Irvine, and apparently fell to their deaths very near the summit on June 8 or 9. Davis explores every facet of these single-minded expeditions and the deeply committed, bold, hubristic men who made it possible. More detail-bludgeoning than riveting tale of mettle against mountain.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-40889-2

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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