Above All Things by Tanis Rideout(2 out of 5)
Have you ever wondered what it was like to be the first explorer to try to reach the top of Mount Everest? Or wondered what the wife of the man who tried thee times to do so went through every time he tried to climb it again? Wonder no more. The only problem is that when you’re done reading this novel, you just don’t give a shit anymore.
This is the story of George Mallory, world renown explorer who tried to climb Mt. Everest in the 1920’s. He promises his wife Ruth, mother of their children, that he won’t try a third time. However, the lure of discovery and the temptation of adrenaline leads him to accept a third invite. Ruth is heartbroken, but she accepts that there’s no turning back for her husband once he decides to undertake this risk again. You are pulled into the beauty and love of their marriage, but you really feel for Ruth, who it seems, at least the way she’s written here, takes on the total burden of the marriage- more or less, her puzzlement over his seeming inability to just live his happy life and stop pressing the danger button. George does indeed go up for the third time, and if you know your American History, you know what happens. That entire chapter broke my heart. The story of his determination to scale the top of Mt. Everest(along with several others) and the struggles- are vividly retold and you do feel as if you are right there for the highs and lows.
So what’s wrong with the book? Not much- Rideout writes this book so well you know she’s done her history lessons thoroughly. The emotional connection between Ruth and George is flawlessly written. However, I felt great sympathy for Ruth and her children, and almost NO sympathy at all for the character of George. He felt incredibly self-consumed through much of the book. Reliving the happy parts of their courtship and marriage- isn’t enough to keep him off the mountain. If you can’t keep a promise to your wife- why make that promise in the first place? Why put your life in danger if you’re happy and fulfilled? I kept swearing at him throughout the book. If you can’t like the lead character, how are you going to give the book 5 stars? If anything, the two stars are for the fantastically written sympathetic character of Ruth and the detailed death trek chronicled up the mountain. I give this woman huge props for writing this so well. I just could not stand the character of George Mallory.