Book: Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest
Author: Wade Davis
Review: Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber
Two themes I find compelling in my reading are World War I and true outdoor adventure stories like Into Thin Air and The Perfect Storm. So Wade Davis’s Into the Silence was a natural for me. It tells the story of George Mallory’s 1920s quest to become the first climber ever to summit Mt. Everest. Since the reader likely knows that goal wasn’t achieved until Edmund Hillary’s climb in 1953, the outcome is already known – Mallory died on his final attempt to summit. He wrote of his third and final attempt that it was a “1 in 50 chance.”
Mallory was a soldier who saw some of World War I’s worst fighting in the Battle of the Somme. Undoubtedly the graphically described horrors that he and other members of the expedition experienced during the war toughened them to the hardships they would encounter on the climb.
Why did Mallory climb the mountain? He is famous for his quote, “Because it was there.” But his pursuit had symbolic importance to postwar Britain, a nominal winner in a five-year slaughter where all were losers and whose empire was falling to pieces.
The book compellingly illustrates, first, how the struggles and hardships we conquer prepare us for future challenges, and also, the power of symbolic acts in restoring the weary human spirit. It is a thrilling and provocative read.
Read Ms. Moddelmog’s review from last year: Regeneration: World War I Affected Even Those Who Didn’t Fight