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Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest [Hardcover]

Wade Davis
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 27 2011
A magnificent work of history, biography and adventure.

If the quest for Mount Everest began as a grand imperial gesture, as redemption for an empire of explorers that had lost the race to the Poles, it ended as a mission of regeneration for a country and a people bled white by war. Of the twenty-six British climbers who, on three expedtions (1921-24), walked 400 miles off the map to find and assault the highest mountain on Earth, twenty had seen the worst of the fighting. Six had been severely wounded, two others nearly died of disease at the Front, one was hospitalized twice with shell shock. Three as army surgeons dealt for the duration with the agonies of the dying. Two lost brothers, killed in action. All had endured the slaughter, the coughing of the guns, the bones and barbed wire, the white faces of the dead.

In a monumental work of history and adventure, ten years in the writing, Wade Davis asks not whether George Mallory was the first to reach the summit of Everest, but rather why he kept on climbing on that fateful day. His answer lies in a single phrase uttered by one of the survivors as they retreated from the mountain: "The price of life is death." Mallory walked on because for him, as for all of his generation, death was but "a frail barrier that men crossed, smiling and gallant, every day." As climbers they accepted a degree of risk unimaginable before the war. They were not cavalier, but death was no stranger. They had seen so much of it that it had no hold on them. What mattered was how one lived, the moments of being alive.

For all of them Everest had become an exalted radiance, a sentinel in the sky, a symbol of hope in a world gone mad.

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WINNER 2012 – Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2012 – CBA Libris Award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year
FINALIST 2012 – Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2012 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2012 – Banff Mountain Book Competition for Mountain & Wilderness Literature

"The best new book I've read in which the War figures hugely is by Wade Davis and it's called Into the Silence… I don't think I've read anything that has shocked me as much as these accounts did. Written with an extraordinary kind of address and a feel for its barbarity that is really hair raising."
—Andrew Motion, The Guardian (podcast)

"Into the Silence is a breathtaking triumph. An astonishing piece of research, it is also intensely moving, evoking the courage, chivalry and sacrifice that drove Mallory and his companions through the war and to ever greater heights."
—William Shawcross

"Into the Silence is utterly fascinating, and grippingly well written. With extraordinary skill Wade Davis manages to weave together such disparate strands as Queen Victoria's Indian Raj, the 'Great Game' of intrigue against Russia, the horrors of the Somme, and Britain's obsession to conquer the world's highest peak, all linking to that terrible moment atop Everest when Mallory fell to his death. The mystery of whether he and Irving ever reached the summit remains tantalizingly unsolved. Into the Silence deserves to be an instant bestseller."
—Alistair Horne

"The meticulously researched and definitive account of a legend… Fascinating and immensely enjoyable."
—Leo Houlding

"The First World War, the worst calamity humanity has ever inflicted on itself, still reverberates in our lives. In its immediate aftermath, a few young men who had fought in it went looking for a healing challenge, and found it far from the Western Front. In recreating their astonishing adventure, Wade Davis has given us an elegant meditation on the courage to carry on."
—George F. Will

"Wade Davis' mesmerizing telling of Mallory's fabled story gives new and revealing weight to the significance of its post-war era and to Mallory's dazzlingly accomplished and courageous companions. Into the Silence succeeds not only because Davis' research was prodigious, but because every sentence has been struck with conviction, every image evoked with fierce reverence - for the heartbreaking twilight era, for the magnificent resilience of its survivors, for their mission, for Mallory, for his mountain. An epic worthy of its epic."
—Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance and The War That Killed Achilles

"I was captivated. They were a gilded generation and for me the nineteen twenties and thirties were the golden age of mountaineering. Wade Davis has penned an exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. They do not make them like that anymore. And there would always only ever be one Mallory. From the pathos of the trenches to the inevitable tragedies high on Everest this is a book deserving of awards. Monumental in its scope and conception it nevertheless remains hypnotically fascinating throughout. A wonderful story tinged with sadness."
—Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void

About the Author

WADE DAVIS is the bestselling author of several books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow and One River, and is an award-winning anthropologist, ethnobotanist, filmmaker and photographer. Davis currently holds the post of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and divides his time between Washington, DC, where he teaches, and northern British Columbia.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Wade Davis Oct. 13 2011
A deeply moving epic that takes you from the depths of human misery in the trenches of France to the roof of the world in Tibet; from missiles and mud to mountain vistas, and the group of men who represented some of the best of the survivors of the "lost generation", yes, warts and all.

In 1999 Mallory's body was discoverd on Everest giving us no clue as to wether or not he had summited. With none of the modern climbing gear that is now taken for granted, we know that he and his partner at least came very close. After reading the book it somehow dosn't matter.....but that missing picture of Mallory's wife has made me a believer.

I very much appreciated the references to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the "Blue Puttees". Who knows what heights those young men could have gained had they lived.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wade Davis hits another one out of the park ! Dec 30 2011
Wade Davis does an outstanding job in "Into the Silence". He describes the early attempts to climb Mount Everest, focusing on the men involved and placing them in their historical context-- World War I, the British Raj and etc. This is an extraordinary tale, thoroughly researched and imaginatively told. I thoroughly recommend it.

Allan Wakefield
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Dec 6 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a thrilling, historical book. One of the best on Everest, very detailed, left nothing out. I now understand how difficult it must be to be a mountain climber. Certainly not for the faint of heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of 2012 Oct. 14 2012
By bookweasel TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An amazing read. Starts with the Great War stuff. General Haig and his cronies were definitely completely stupid and cowards too. None of the general staff went near where the fighting was. They sat miles back and sent hundreds of thousands to meaningless deaths. Yes that was hundreds of thousands. Such a waste for no reason.

On to the Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924. Much to be learned here. The development of mountaineering techniques including the use of oxygen. How the area was mapped by a Canadian. The amazing stupidity of the Alpine Club members who made decisions entirely based on class without regard for skills and abilities. How the Tibetans lived particularly in relation to their religion.

A terrific read on so many levels."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars into the silence Jan. 1 2012
By janet
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An intriguing look at a fascinating phenomena. Very well put together. I will be pleased to dive back in for another read of this fine piece of work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars engrossing Nov. 16 2013
By james
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In my original review I was critical about the absence of the photos that are in the hard copy. Much to my surprise, on finishing the entire book,epilogue, bibliography and all, I discovered the photos at the very end almost as an afterthought. So mea culpa --- I should have read the small print in the last line of the table of contents. I would give the Kindle version 5 stars out of five but for the small size of the maps which do not magnify well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars In Awe & Admiration Nov. 15 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I haven't yet read it so unable to comment although dipping into it was awesome and I look forward to my own ascent to those lonely heights.
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Into the Silence is a great, sprawling, long book that's the result of years and years of research. It's a history book, a geography book, an adventure book and a novel all wrapped up into a thoroughly engrossing read. The type of book you can curl up with numerous late nights and take your time reading. For page after page you're right up there in the mountains, wearing a woolen coat and mitts and a pair of sturdy boots trying to conquer Everest.

Astonishing detail about the logistics, the history, the cultures, the infighting, the financing, the politics, the marketing and the unbelievable personalities.

Just a magnificent piece of work. One of the very rare times that I want to hand out SIX stars. If you love travel, discovery and mountaineering, you'll hardly find better.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!
I once though no one could compare with Harper Lee and "To Kill a Mockingbird"- I was wrong. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kootenay Gal
5.0 out of 5 stars I even read the annotated bibliography
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

I've had my copy of 'into the silence' ever since Wade Davis did an absorbing interview on... Read more
Published 13 months ago by montana-san
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Very interesting story for anyone interested in adventure types of books not just mountain climbing. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ele Math
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
If you want to understand the world of Downton Abbey, read Into the Silence! Amazing book by the incredible Wade Davis!
Published 15 months ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Maps are expensive
This book, a product of more than a decade of research,might well have benefited from additional maps. Read more
Published 15 months ago by WolfCreek
3.0 out of 5 stars Into The Silence
There are so many geographical references in the book that without a good map one has trouble relating to the topography being described. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Lynne (Tim) Hutchins
4.0 out of 5 stars Into the Silence
Not what I expected. Broad in scope. A good read. Lead up to Everest puts things in perspective. I recommend it to folks who are interested in history.
Published 16 months ago by Michael Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Everest, Then and Now
I have a LOT of half finished mountaineering tomes in my basement library, but this is not one of them. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Steven Threndyle
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