Above All Things (Paperback)

By Tanis Rideout

Berkley Publishing Group, 9780425268148, 405pp.

Publication Date: February 4, 2014

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Description

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.


About the Author

Tanis Rideout s work has appeared in numerous publications and has been short-listed for several prizes, including a CBC Literary Award. Born in Belgium, she grew up in Bermuda and in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto, where she received her MFA from the University of Guelph-Humber. Above All Things is her first novel."


Praise For Above All Things

“‘Because it’s there.’ With just three words, George Mallory explained why they 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.”—David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z

“A superb addition to the fictional biography genre.”—Library Journal

“Rideout’s powerful prose evokes the scalpel-like sting of arctic winds and the bone-shattering cold of frigid mountain nights. Impeccably researched, Rideout’s vividly authentic debut historical novel is a paean to the ability of love to conquer all but the highest mountains.”—Booklist

“An elegant and well-researched novel.”—The New York Observer

“Part love story, part high-octane adventure, this historical novel about doomed Everest climber George Mallory is a tough one to put down.”—People

“Rideout’s powerful prose about a tragic, brutal end will haunt you.”—USA Today

"Gripping."—Parade

"[Rideout's] depiction of the Everest climb pulses with visceral detail."—Entertainment Weekly

“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."—Publishers Weekly

Above All Things is part thrilling adventure, part moving love story and, in its entirety, beautifully written.”—Examiner.com

“Truly mesmerizing, a powerful weaving of the tensions and heartaches of a marriage in conflict with an obsession…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 and Heading Out to Wonderful

Above All Things has it all: adventure, tragedy, mystery, and a deeply moving love story. It’s gorgeously written and beautifully packed. I could not put it down. Prepare to be dazzled.”—Allison Pick, author of Far to Go, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize

“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 fiction arrives.”—Joseph Boyden, author of Through Black Spruce and Three Day Road

 



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. The novel is told in three different narratives: that of Ruth, of George, and of Sandy. What do you think the reader gains by being able to see the viewpoints of these three main characters? What does each of these perspectives bring to the telling of the story?
  2. George and Sandy’s stories are told in the past tense though Ruth’s is told in present tense. Why do you think that is? Ruth’s story is told over the course of one day, whereas George and Sandy’s are told over a period of time. How do these different time frames enhance the novel?
  3. When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory replied, “because it’s there.” In your opinion, why did George attempt Everest the first time? Do you think his reasoning was different for his final, fated attempt? Why do people embark on similar endeavours, such as running marathons, skydiving, rock climbing, etc.? Have you or would you ever consider a challenge like these?
  4. The question of climbing with or without oxygen was a serious issue in the early twentieth century—an ethical and moral question. Today, nearly everyone who climbs the mountain uses oxygen and much more sophisticated equipment and clothing. Do you think this changes the value of climbing Everest?
  5. In reading a telegram meant for her husband, Ruth finds out that George has agreed to return to Everest. Do you think it would have changed things between them if he had told her himself? How do you think he should have told her? Have you ever discovered terrible news by reading something you shouldn’t have?
  6. Ruth makes a great many sacrifices to support George. What does it mean to be a supportive wife or husband? Do you think George acted selfishly? How do you support someone in something if it requires sacrificing so much for yourself?
  7. While in New York George has a brief affair with another woman. Do you think Ruth knew about this affair? Should George have told her? What does this say about their marriage? Do you think this betrayal is more or less significant than George’s return to Everest against Ruth’s wishes?
  8. George is determined to conquer Everest for himself, but also for his country. In the end, the mountain overcomes him. What does this mean to George? For those at home in England? How would you characterize George’s relationship with Everest?
  9. George decided to go on the expedition against Ruth’s wishes and so she must stay at home and anxiously wait for his return. Do you think Ruth is a strong woman? In what ways is she at the mercy of her love for her husband? Do you feel sympathy for her? Do you think there are any contemporary parallels to her staying at home with her husband away, out to conquer the world, so to speak?
  10. Many explorers, astronauts, adventurers, etc., take tremendous risks at the edge of their pursuits for numerous reasons. Do you think George is justified in his pursuit of his obsession? Is it fair to his wife and children? At what point must one consider the needs of others more than one’s own? How does pride influence—or skew—the clarity of George’s decision making?
  11. As the youngest and most inexperienced member of the expedition, Sandy has to rely on the experience and knowledge of those around him. Do you think George should have chosen a more veteran climber? If so, why? How much confidence does George have in Sandy? Have you ever been in a position to take on a challenging task that you were not fully prepared for? Did you rise to the occasion?
  12. What do you make of the relationship between Will and Ruth? George asks Will to look after Ruth, and Will agrees. Do you think George made a mistake? What do you think Ruth’s feelings are for Will?
  13. Ruth had a whole lifetime in front of her in the aftermath of George’s death as well as the burden of raising three small children by herself. How do you imagine her life to have been during the months and years following the death of her husband?
  14. Consider the extravagance (i.e., champagne) of what the climbers brought with them up the mountain. Meanwhile, when the little coolie boy died, no one seemed to bat an eye. What do you think about this? Were the white men’s achievements done at the expense of the indigenous people?
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