The Moth and the Mountain: Book summary and reviews of The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar

The Moth and the Mountain

A True Story of Love, War, and Everest

by Ed Caesar

The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar X
The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar
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Book Summary

An extraordinary true story about one man's attempt to salve the wounds of war and save his own soul through an audacious adventure.

In the 1930s, as official government expeditions set their sights on conquering Mount Everest, a little-known World War I veteran named Maurice Wilson conceives his own crazy, beautiful plan: he will fly a plane from England to Everest, crash-land on its lower slopes, then become the first person to reach its summit—all utterly alone. Wilson doesn't know how to climb. He barely knows how to fly. But he has the right plane, the right equipment, and a deep yearning to achieve his goal. In 1933, he takes off from London in a Gipsy Moth biplane with his course set for the highest mountain on earth. Wilson's eleven-month journey to Everest is wild: full of twists, turns, and daring. Eventually, in disguise, he sneaks into Tibet. His icy ordeal is just beginning.

Wilson is one of the Great War's heroes, but also one of its victims. His hometown of Bradford in northern England is ripped apart by the fighting. So is his family. He barely survives the war himself. Wilson returns from the conflict unable to cope with the sadness that engulfs him. He begins a years-long trek around the world, burning through marriages and relationships, leaving damaged lives in his wake. When he finally returns to England, nearly a decade after he first left, he finds himself falling in love once more—this time with his best friend's wife—before depression overcomes him again. He emerges from his funk with a crystalline ambition. He wants to be the first man to stand on top of the world. Wilson believes that Everest can redeem him.

This is the tale of an adventurer unlike any you have ever encountered: complex, driven, wry, haunted, and fully alive. He is a man written out of the history books—dismissed as an eccentric, and gossiped about because of rumors of his transvestism. The Moth and the Mountain restores Maurice Wilson to his rightful place in the annals of Everest and tells an unforgettable story about the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Caesar skillfully explores the political, intellectual, and spiritual movements of the era, as well as Wilson's psychic scars from the war. Though his climb ended in tragedy, Wilson inspired Reinhold Messner to make the first solo ascent of Everest in 1980. This entertaining, well-researched chronicle is a valuable addition to mountaineering history." - Publishers Weekly

"Caesar has an unfortunate habit of addressing himself in the second person...Still, he turns in a multifaceted tale full of learned speculation—at least one climber claims that Wilson made the summit—and intriguing minor mysteries. It's not Into Thin Air, but Caesar's story has plenty of virtues all the same. A welcome addition to the library of oddball adventurers." - Kirkus Reviews

"Caesar has created a widely appealing and affecting character study, microhistory, story of love and loss, and inquiry into some surprising effects of trauma and personal tragedy." - Booklist

"Ed Caesar has written a slim, ravishing chronicle that is absolutely bursting with life—doomed romance, the dread of the battlefield, the lure of adventure, hair-raising tales of amateur aviation, and, above all, the beauty and madness of the quest to ascend Earth's tallest summit. Maurice Wilson is as rich and full of surprise and contradiction as a character in a novel, and through painstaking historical research, Caesar brings his hero back to vivid life in all his messy, inspiring, ultimately tragic glory. A major feat of reporting and elegant storytelling." - Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing

"A wonderful adventure story, beautifully told. Based on years of painstaking archival research, Ed Caesar's The Moth and the Mountain brings us a modern-day myth with a beguiling, impossible hero from a vanished era of empire, one man on an epic quest that is by turns gripping and heartbreaking." - Adam Higginbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl

"The Moth and the Mountain is a gripping story of heroism, adventure, madness, and thwarted love, told with extraordinary empathy and intelligence. Ed Caesar is a writer of rare style and depth, and he has written a great and moving work of nonfiction." - Mark O'Connell, author of Notes from an Apocalypse

This information about The Moth and the Mountain was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Ed Caesar

Ed Caesar is an author and a contributing writer to the New Yorker. Before joining the New Yorker, Caesar wrote stories for the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, Outside, the Smithsonian Magazine, Esquire, the Sunday Times (London), British GQ, and the Independent. He has reported from a wide range of countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Russia, and Iran. He has won a number of awards for his journalism, including the 2014 Journalist of the Year from the Foreign Press Association of London. His first book, Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon, was awarded a Cross Sports Book of the Year award.

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