A New York Times Editor's Choice
1924. George Mallory is arguably the last great British explorer, having twice tried—and failed—to conquer Mount Everest. The mountain has haunted him, but his attempts have captivated the hearts of a nation desperate to restore its former glory after World War I. Yet George has sworn to his wife, Ruth, that he will not mount a third attempt. He will remain with her and their three children instead of again challenging the unreachable peak.
Then, one afternoon, Ruth reads a telegram addressed to George: “Glad to have you aboard again.” And with this one sentence, the lives of the Mallorys, and the face of the nation, are irrevocably changed.
A beautifully rendered story about the need for redemption and the quest for glory, Above All Things is a captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction. It is a heartbreaking tale of obsession, sacrifice, and what we do for love and honor.
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. Against the backdrop of Mallory's disastrous third expedition to attempt the summit in 1924, the explorer's tenacity and motives get thoughtful treatment, as he muses that if there was "nothing worth dying for, neither could there be anything worth living for," while Ruth, waiting for news and caring for their three children, is torn between understanding and resentment. For Ruth, this deep need to explore the world is what made it round rather than flat, her "desire to leave home... as strongly our desire to return." Her catalogue of George's comings and goings is a source of pain and hope and becomes all the more poignant as Rideout offers a gripping account of the expedition. 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. The inevitable, terrible end remains in sight for the reader throughout, as compelling as the mountain peak that Mallory pursued at all costs. But Ruth's reactions, from her own sense of foreboding to her surprising fortitude in the face of deep loss, reassuringly ground the novel with the sense, as another doomed climber mused, of how "time keeps passing when we're away."