The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory

Peter Gillman, Author, Leni Gillman, Joint Author
Peter Gillman, Author, Leni Gillman, Joint Author Mountaineers Books $27.95 (287p) ISBN 978-0-89886-741-1
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Why did George Mallory, his 1924 expedition in treacherous straits, nevertheless make a last-ditch attempt to go for the summit of Mt. Everest--a decision that cost the lives of this seasoned climber and his young climbing partner, Andrew Irvine? To the Gillmans, British journalists and mountaineers who together retraced Mallory's 1921 reconnaissance expedition, the answer is plain: he hoped to resolve the conflict at the core of his marriage, to obviate the need for further expeditions and further separations from his beloved wife, Ruth. This vivid, illustrated biography is both a moving tribute to Mallory and a fresh reappraisal of the man and the legends surrounding him. While the authors take no position on whether or not Mallory and Irvine reached Everest's acme--a controversy intensified by the discovery of Mallory's body in 1999--they provide a useful summary of the ongoing debate. Drawing liberally on letters between Mallory and his wife, the Gillmans chart the highs and lows of a marriage strained by his periodic absences. While mountain climbing was for decades an imperialist's sport, Mallory did not fit the mold. A rector's son, he became a Fabian socialist and agnostic at Cambridge, making friends with poet Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves and Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant, and indulging in a brief homosexual affair. Mallory's literary output includes a study of Boswell and an intense love sonnet to fianc e Ruth. Among the spate of recent books on Mallory's Everest expeditions, this biography stands out for its well-rounded, sensitive portrait of a restless, thoughtful adventurer. Photos. (Sept.)
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