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Above All Things [Hardcover]

Tanis Rideout
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 19 2012

Amazon.ca Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air in this breathtaking debut novel of obsession and divided loyalties, which brilliantly weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory's ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return.
 
A captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction, Above All Things moves seamlessly back and forth between the epic story of Mallory's legendary final expedition and a heartbreaking account of a day in the life of Ruth Mallory. Through George's perspective, and that of the newest member of the climbing team, Sandy Irvine, we get an astonishing picture of the terrible risks taken by the men on the treacherous terrain of the Himalaya. But it is through Ruth's eyes that a complex portrait of a marriage emerges, one forged on the eve of the First World War, shadowed by its losses, and haunted by the ever-present possibility that George might not come home.

Drawing on years of research, this powerful and beautifully written novel is a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honour, glory, and love.


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Review

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Pick

“This is a fascinating, true story and Canadian Tanis Rideout has done justice to its harrowing quality in her debut novel, Above All Things. . . . The great power of the novel, understandably, is not these internal debates but Rideout’s description of the battle between the vulnerable bodies of the climbers and the invulnerable mountain. In describing this battle, Rideout’s prose is almost lyrical. . . . History tells us, of course, that George Mallory did not succeed, but this foreknowledge does not diminish the suspense of Rideout’s narrative. It will be a stony-hearted reader who does not hope against hope that George makes the summit and returns alive.”
—Philip Marchand, the National Post
 
“Tanis Rideout certainly isn’t the first writer to probe the Mallory story, but her graceful turns of phrase, her realistic knack of winging us back and forth between Cambridge and Everest, and her powerful portraits of Mallory and his climbing team allow Above All Things to reach its own spectacular literary summit.”
Toronto Star
 
“Tanis Rideout’s debut novel Above All Things reaches unimaginable peaks. Prepare your heart. . . . At the height of Above All Things is timeless romance, an unflinching love story that touches the very core of the human condition. Rideout leaves readers holding the book close to their chest, knowing that the purpose of life, above all else, is love.”
Telegraph-Journal 
 
“Like Wade Davis’s 2011 non-fiction epic Into the Silence, Rideout’s novel is the product of years of research. But freed from the constraints of history, she delves into the thoughts and emotions of her main characters. . . . Vivid and gripping . . .”
—Winnipeg Free Press

“[A] knockout first novel. . . . The author has exhilaratingly imagined the British climber’s third and final attempt to reach the mountain’s summit in 1924 through extensive research and attention to detail, creating an atmosphere as authentic as in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. . . . 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."
—Library Journal (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. . . . The author’s accomplished depiction of the harsh and beautiful Himalayan heights, the physical drain of the climb, the bitter, brutal cold and thin, grudging air pushes the reader forward in a gripping adventure narrative, while Ruth’s own longings and fears offer a counterpoint of a more settled but no less intensely sensual interior landscape.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A love story, a tale of adventure, and a study in obsession all at once, Above All Things is simply breathtaking. With Tanis Rideout’s debut, a major new voice in Canadian fiction arrives.”
—Joseph Boyden, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Through Black Spruce
 
Above All Things has it all: adventure, tragedy, mystery, and a deeply moving love story. It’s gorgeously written and beautifully paced. I could not put it down. Prepare to be dazzled.”
—Alison Pick, author of the Man Booker Prize-nominated Far To Go

"'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."
—David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z
 
"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."
— Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker

"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."
—-Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife

About the Author

TANIS RIDEOUT received her MFA from the University of Guelph-Humber, and she has been a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the CBC Literary Awards. In 2006, she was named Poet Laureate for Lake Ontario by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and joined Gord Downie on a tour to promote environmental justice on the lake. Sometimes referred to as the Poet Laureate of CanRock, Tanis joined Sarah Harmer’s I Love the Escarpment Tour to read a commissioned poem. She was born in Belgium, grew up in Bermuda and in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Read! Sept. 18 2012
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Story Description:

McClelland & Stewart Inc.|June 19, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-7710-7635-0

The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air in this breathtaking debut novel of obsession and divided loyalties, which brilliantly weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory's ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return.

A captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction, Above All Things moves seamlessly back and forth between the epic story of Mallory's legendary final expedition and a heartbreaking account of a day in the life of Ruth Mallory. Through George's perspective, and that of the newest member of the climbing team, Sandy Irvine, we get an astonishing picture of the terrible risks taken by the men on the treacherous terrain of the Himalaya. But it is through Ruth's eyes that a complex portrait of a marriage emerges, one forged on the eve of the First World War, shadowed by its losses, and haunted by the ever-present possibility that George might not come home.

Drawing on years of research, this powerful and beautifully written novel is a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honour, glory, and love.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! The alternating chapters between different days of George's legendary climb and only one day in Ruth's life was a brilliant concept on Ms. Rideout's part. The exhilaration, suspense, and gripping writing is amazing. The vivid descriptions of the bone-chilling cold, the cutting wind, and the glaring ice made you feel as if you were there climbing with the group.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic adventure and insight July 24 2012
Format:Hardcover
If you love good writing that transports you to a different time and place, read this book. These pages will put you alongside Mallory and Irvine as the tallest mountain in the world pulls you into the death zone - and the author gives a much deeper and insightful answer than 'Because it is there'. Thank you Tanis Rideout, for a story of extreme human endurance, both emotional and physical, told with consummate style and skill.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Tanis Rideout's Above All Things is a gorgeous study in desire (and its many manifestations: wanting, needing, longing, moving). It asks us to consider what drives us towards (and away) from the things that matter. How it is we come to decide what it is that matters -- and what we are willing to put on the line for it.

Rideout has created intricate worlds that are engaging and vibrant in her fictional account of George Mallory's 1924 Everest expedition. She traces how, in the years following the Great War, individual and national desires collided, resulting in the famed expedition to the mountain's summit. Rideout offers us particular insight into the lives of George Mallory, his expedition companion Sandy Irvine, and his wife Ruth, who struggles to accept her dutiful place awaiting George in Cambridge when her life is thrown out of order by his wanderlust.In invoking the chaos of war and its aftershock, the relationships imposed by colonial economies and imaginaries, the desires underpinning these explorations, and the lives of those affected by them, this novel asks us to consider these things as human things, and raises questions as to what their means and ends are worth.

While epic in scope, Rideout manages to move skillfully from the sweeping to the intimate, finding poetry and humour in the everyday. She offers insight into circumstances that are both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. She is skilled at exploring the spaces between; the slack and tension between humans, and between humans and objects (Everest first comes to mind, but note the role of letters in the novel). Her characters are complicated and embodied, with Rideout paying careful attention to the physical pleasures and pains that come with their territories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, lyrical, and yet a ripping yarn. July 12 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Above All Things is a wonderful balance of high adventure and intricately observed detail. Tanis Rideout makes Mallory's tale fresh again with beautifully written descriptions of the expedition set against a backdrop of home. Bringing together richly imagined personal lives and historical research, she explores duty, longing, love and obsession in a moving, evocative and perfectly paced story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor start...great finish Nov. 24 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Found this very tiresome; for the most part. Must have had an effective hook to keep me reading especially through the interminable and repetitious minutiae of "her" chapters. Total surprise after the boredom to have a such a magnificent finale. Seems like an editor could have helped by streamlining her endless,and to my mind, pointless observations about everyday occurrences.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Read March 1 2013
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I have no idea what prompted me to read this book. I have never had an interesting in climbing nor in the history of Mount Everest. I don't even like to climb to the top of a step ladder, but by the time I had finished the first chapter, I didn't want to put Above all Things down. Some how, author Tanis Rideout has brought to life a story that is almost ninety years old. I wanted to race through this book so I could find out what happened and at the same time, I had to keep myself for searching about George Mallory on the Internet. That would have been cheating.

This is the story of the third attempt by the British in 1924 to scale Mount Everest. George Mallory was part of the team for each of those attempts. Each time he left at home his wife Ruth and their three children.

I was captivated by this fictionalized re-telling. As I was reading, I watched the snow outside my window and shivered knowing that Mallory and his team had endured much worse. I imagined them in their cotton and leather clothing and realized how inadequate their supplies must have been. Poor nutrition and dehydration must have plagued them through the entire adventure.

Several thoughts stuck with me through out the book. First, the nature of a man. What lengths a man would go to in achieving a goal. What price was George willing to pay to be able to stand at the summit of Everest.

Second, the role of the wife, who was expected to stay at home and support what ever it was that the husband chose to do with his life. Was Ruth given any say in what George did.

A third thing that bothered me was that at that time it was thought to be unsporting if the climbers used oxygen bottles. Who would think it unsporting.
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