Summary and book reviews of Above All Things by Tanis Rideout

Above All Things

By Tanis Rideout

Above All Things
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2013,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2014,
    416 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Bob Sauerbrey

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About this Book

Book Summary

"Tell me the story of Everest," she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. "Tell me about this mountain that's stealing you away from me." 

In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George's young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire's faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.

Chapter 1
1920

Tell me the story of Everest," she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. "Tell me about this mountain that's stealing you away from me."

George and Ruth sat on the drawing room floor, laughing and tipsy, dinner growing cold on the table in the next room. Ruth was cross-legged opposite him, her gray skirt pulled tight across her knees. She picked up the single sheet of thick ivory paper from her lap and reread the invitation from the newly formed Mount Everest Committee again. "My husband, the world-famous explorer." Ruth held up her glass of wine and he reached out with his own, the crystal ringing in the lamplit room. She was fairly bursting with happiness.

"I like the sound of that," George said, and let himself imagine what it would be like to have people thinking about him, talking about him. The opportunities that success on Everest would bring. "I might be able to leave teaching, maybe even write full time...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel is told in three different narratives: that of Ruth, of George, and of Sandy. What do you think the reader gains by being able to see the viewpoints of these three main characters? What does each of these perspectives bring to the telling of the story?
  2. George and Sandy's stories are told in the past tense though Ruth's is told in present tense. Why do you think that is? Ruth's story is told over the course of one day, whereas George and Sandy's are told over a period of time. How do these different time frames enhance the novel?
  3. When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory replied, "because it's there." In your opinion, why did George attempt Everest the first time? Do you think his...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Many authors never surpass the masterwork with which they started their careers. If Tanis Rideout writes no other novel, she has achieved mastery in this first long work and has given us a treasure. I personally hope she will continue to write so skillfully of the inner human struggle. Some would call this a historical novel, but it is more than that: it is an exploration of the conflict of the human heart, which all must face and within which we each must shape our destiny.   (Reviewed by Bob Sauerbrey).

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Media Reviews
Booklist

With a gripping, 'you are there' realism, Rideout's powerful prose evokes the scalpel-like sting of arctic winds and the bone-shattering cold of frigid mountain nights. Impeccably researched, Rideout's vividly authentic debut historical novel is a paean to the ability of love to conquer all but the highest mountains

Kirkus Reviews

A plodding quality slips in, the sense that Rideout is following the historical dots, but she does a terrific job describing both the extreme physical conditions and the dreamlike consciousness George and Sandy drift into as their memories of home intertwine with their moment-to-moment climb.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This vivid, assured, and confident debut novel scales great heights of obsession and desire, both on the face of Mount Everest and in the loving bond between doomed explorer George Mallory and his wife, Ruth.

Library Journal

George Mallory is the subject of this knockout first novel from a Canadian poet. The author has exhilaratingly imagined the British climber's third and final attempt to reach the mountain's summit ... creating an atmosphere as authentic as in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.... Book group alert! Rideout has written a superb addition to the fictional biography genre popularized by novels like Loving Frank and The Paris Wife. Buy it. Recommend it. Your patrons will thank you.

Author Blurb David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z
'Because it's there.' With just three words, George Mallory explained why explorers do what they do. Yet beyond these words, volumes have been left unsaid. With Above All Things, Tanis Rideout finally fills in this void, illuminating one of the great tragic adventure stories of the modern-day age. It's a fantastic read.

Author Blurb Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife and Heading Out to Wonderful
This magnificent novel, at once rugged and sensual, elaborates on George Mallory's assault on Everest in 1924, the ones who went, the ones who waited. Deeply felt, richly imagined, immaculately styled, and utterly compelling, Above All Things takes us to the heights of human experience and endurance, both in physical fortitude and erotic longing. Rideout brings us to the summit and back down, shaken but somehow saved by grace.

Author Blurb Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
Tanis Rideout's Above All Things is truly mesmerizing, a powerful weaving of the tensions and heartaches of a marriage in conflict with an obsession. It is the story of British climber George Mallory's third scaling of the walls of the world's highest mountain, and it is brilliantly told. It will take you up the slopes of Mount Everest, a climb so vividly described, you will almost feel the biting wind, the intense cold, the great drama of an historic event. But this is more than an adventure tale. Above All Things takes the reader into the hearts of both Mallory and his wife as they struggle to understand each other and their own conflicted yearnings. A deeply satisfying blend of truth and imagination that stands out from the crowd.

Reader Reviews
Karen R

Captivating
What a great book. Can't remember the last time I read a book with such a powerful ending. Plus I don't normally read the author notes at the end of a book, but I was captivated by her story and how she came to write this book about the Mallory's. Ms...   Read More

Diane S

Above all things
I have read non fiction accounts of George Mallory and his attempts to climb Mt. Everest so I was already familiar with a basic knowledge of his story. Alternating chapters between the expedition and George's young wife at home with her three ...   Read More

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Glorious Failures

Tanis Rideout's Above All Things is part of an important tradition in human history and literature. The deaths of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine continue the fascination we have with glorious failures and heroic misadventures.

The Iliad's Hector

Hector and AndromacheThe Iliad, one of the first works of Western Literature, celebrates the death of Hector, a man of integrity and clearly superior to those who defeat him and his people. Hector shows a mercy and compassion lacking in the Greek leaders, Agamemnon and Menelaus, and even in the tortured hero who kills him, Achilles. In their last meeting in book 6 of The Iliad, Hector and his wife Andromache, both realizing in their deepest hearts that Hector will die in the coming battle, speak of the ...

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