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Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest | [Wade Davis]

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

In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather.
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Publisher's Summary

On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip of Mount Everest’s North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain’s finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a young Oxford scholar of twenty-two with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.

In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Into the Silence sets their remarkable achievements in sweeping historical context: Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of the war that destroyed all notions of honor and decency, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain’s elite, emerged as a symbol of national redemption and hope.

Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and endurance, and a timeless portrait of an extraordinary generation of adventurers, soldiers, and mountaineers the likes of which we will never see again.

©2011 Wade Davis (P)2011 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

“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)

“I was captivated. Wade Davis has penned an exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. They do not make them like that any more. 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)

“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.” (Alistair Horne, author of The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (102 )
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4.2 (76 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Fiona Milton, PA, United States 11-29-12
    Fiona Milton, PA, United States 11-29-12 Member Since 2012

    Radio producer; storyteller; folk historian; and audio book addict...Audio books are the only way that I can fit in all the reading I need and want to do. ...Oh, and I am also British. (Anglo-Welsh).

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    "He wrote exquisite Eel-agies?"

    Once again, a wonderful book, marred by the inability of the reader to pronounce simple things. I would offer a level of forgiveness, had the reader been American..(Shame on me for that, but it is true).
    But Enn Reitel has a British accent.He was educated at the Central School, he's a Scot...he should know better!
    Why then did he not know, or was he not told by the producer that:
    Caius College, Cambridge; is pronounced "Keys"; that an eulogy is pronounced YEW-la-gee;(Not Eelagee) that the artist Titian is Ti-shun not TEA shun....and many, many many other slips. I became accustomed to his questionable mispronunciation of Ypres, and tried my very best to accept that maybe some folk do pronounce Paschendale as "Passion-deli"....maybe....(I went so far as to try and research the possibility) ; but half way through the reading, I am beginning to think that it was a mistake to buy this book on Audible.
    Pity, as I had waited for this book for some time. Will knuckle under and buy in hard back.
    Yes, I'm fussy about the readings. It can make or mar a book. I love the English language, and Wade Davis has worked hard to bring a startling and fascinating story to us;
    I want to experience it at its best. Not wallowing in the "Meer" (pronunciation of mire by Enn Reitel).

    And lest you think that I am wallowing in ignorance.
    1. I am a Brit
    2. Have friends in Scotland, visit often, know the accent (and I am a collector of dialects)
    3. Professional performer myself.
    4. Radio producer.

    We all make tiny mistakes from time to time....I have, I know, but there is a credo in voice performances
    "If you can't pronounce , don't announce"
    In a project like this, all names should be double checked for correct pronunciation.


    Perhaps Enn Reitel was trying to be "posh"....didn't work. Just angered me.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tara Blacksburg, VA, United States 02-14-12
    Tara Blacksburg, VA, United States 02-14-12 Member Since 2010

    Interested in history, war, and Russia

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Really enjoyed it"

    I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in mountaineering or war. The author gives a good overview on some of the more devastating battles of WWI and how they shaped the lives and outlook of climbers like Mallory. You really get to appreciate who these men are and the physical, political, and mental stress they had to endure just to get to the base of Everest. Their persistence despite the weather and previous failures is inspiring. Even though this book was long, I found myself wanting more after it had finished.

    I always wish that audible books like this came with maps. Several times I had to go online and look up aerial photographs of the Everest area to orientate myself. Other times I just zoned out during the Tibetan names and places. It's a good read nonetheless.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Toronto, ON, Canada 12-27-11
    Patricia Toronto, ON, Canada 12-27-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "The Truth About Everest"
    Would you listen to Into the Silence again? Why?

    Once is enough for the length of the book. But a good listen.


    What other book might you compare Into the Silence to and why?

    Books about Robert Falcon Scott and the Antarctic expedition. ITS also describes in detail the insane overconfidence of the Brits who tried a big adventure.


    What aspect of Enn Reitel’s performance would you have changed?

    He mispronounced the names of important battlefields in WW1, such as Ypres and Passchendaele. Also had obvious difficulty with the Tibetan place-names: the little pause before each name is attempted, becomes tiring. The voice is beautiful: he should have had better advice.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The insane overconfidence of the expeditions was laughable. One sees them painfully learning how to do it (not very well). Their awful snobbery about all things and people non-British is an eye-opener, and led to some of their tragedies.


    Any additional comments?

    In comparison with a TV documentary I saw recently, the book told a true story in great detail, and tried not to romanticize it. Fairly clear that Mallory did not summit, and also that he was hardly the hero people imagine. But he was human, obsessed, and charismatic. He made Everest famous, with now-dubious results, as his is one of the corpses that now make the place a monument to folly.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Will Jackson Nanaimo, BC, Canada 04-17-12
    Will Jackson Nanaimo, BC, Canada 04-17-12
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    "A stunning and audacious story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Overall this is an excellent work. Davis' research and story telling combine in illustrating a broad and complicated narrative. He connects the history of exploration in the Himalayas, British imperialism in India and the surrounding territories, and the convulsive effects of the Great War on the imperial ruling classes into one convincing thesis. Moreover Davis' Canadian background and work as an ethno-botinast add depth and colour to the narrative.

    My only criticism of Davis work regard his reliance on the dated 'Lions led by Donkeys' view of the war. This argues that the war was fought by faultlessly heroic young men who were killed by the gross ineptitude of their own back room generals. This view of the Great War has been largely dismissed by historians for some time now, and Davis would have been better served by reading some more current historiography - none of which would have detracted from his overarching narrative. Indeed it would only have served to improve the work by avoiding what are in effect dated historical conventions (although still held as current by the general public, of course).

    Nonetheless this is an excellent and interesting work on a subject, or really collection of subjects, that are all the better illuminated by being treated in concert.

    As for the reading Enn Reitel does a sound job, save for the occasional and mystifying mispronunciation of reasonably common words and phrases, from Great War battlefields to Cambridge Colleges.


    What other book might you compare Into the Silence to and why?

    Anything by Peter Hopkirk


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Madeira Park, BC, Canada 01-31-14
    Mary Madeira Park, BC, Canada 01-31-14 Member Since 2004
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    "Amazing Scholarship and a Great Read"

    I have no particular interest in mountaineering but read this book because I admire the author and am certainly glad I did. It is an amazing reconstruction of the day-to-day and hour-by-our progress of the first Everest expeditions but more than that, a reconstruction of a genteel Edwardian world now almost as exotic as ancient Tibet. A terrific read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Arlington, TX, United States 10-26-13
    Richard Arlington, TX, United States 10-26-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Lots of opportunities to fast forward"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    There was a lot of detail that seemed to be repeated and took detours into personal items that didn't add that much to the climbing story. When the book was focused on the mountain it was very good.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Wade Davis again?

    Not sure.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narration was fine.


    What character would you cut from Into the Silence?

    I would cut out the extraneous. I'm not a prude but compared to hearing about the drama on the climb why should I care about sexual activity at an English boy's school. I started listening to these long sections in double time so I could get back to the actual story.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pattywolford WV 08-06-12
    Pattywolford WV 08-06-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The spectrum of mountaineering pre/post WWI"
    Would you listen to Into the Silence again? Why?

    Yes, I would listen again because there is so much information, presented very well. The amount of research is impressive, to say the least, and a great gift to any reader who is interested in the golden era of mountaineering as well as the impact of WWI on those who participated in the horrors of war in the trenches.


    Have you listened to any of Enn Reitel’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not listened to Enn Reitel before, but he is excellent and I'll be looking for more of his performances.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I wouldn't attempt to listen in one sitting, since it is a long book.


    Any additional comments?

    I just love Wade Davis for all the research he did for this book, and for the intelligent and cohesive weaving of a complicated story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maude el paso, TX, United States 01-19-12
    Maude el paso, TX, United States 01-19-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "GREAT READ"

    Worth the time. A nice blending of history and mountaineering. At times, I lost track of characters and geography. But worth the time to hear.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George Kuvinka 08-06-14 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting Story told in Exhaustive (ing?) Detail"
    What did you like best about Into the Silence? What did you like least?

    It is an interesting story. Survivors of WWI take on the challenge of Everest in the 1920s. The narrative, however, seemed to me buried in a wealth of detail concerning the three Mallory expeditions and also of the expeditions which preceded them.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Into the Silence?

    The most memorable take away for me was a theme, not a moment. A privileged Cambridge/Oxford generation of young Brits comes of age during WWI. Many are killed in the war. A few survive unspeakable horrors of the battlefield only to embrace a seemingly impossible challenge-the climbing of Mt. Everest. These are some very tough existentialists!


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I thought the performance pretty formal in a high society, afternoon tea, sort of way. Appropriate? Yes. However, I found it somewhat flat and uninspiring.


    Was Into the Silence worth the listening time?

    I wouldn't recommend it for the general listener. For those with a background and keen interest in mountaineering, Everest expeditions and even WWI, this is a very worthwhile book.


    Any additional comments?

    Reminded me of Moby Dick. Ahab=Mallory. MD=Everest. Just like in Moby Dick, the amount of detail challenges the reader and often stalls the narrative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eugene Bonney Lake, WA, United States 05-14-14
    Eugene Bonney Lake, WA, United States 05-14-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The finest history of early Everest exploration"
    Where does Into the Silence rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I have listened to more than 200 audio books and would put this book close to the top, if not at the top itself.


    What other book might you compare Into the Silence to and why?

    Over the years I have read hundreds of books on climbing, quite a few of them describing the early Everest expeditions. Never before has an author put the climb and climbers into the context of the period in which it occurred. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout has been one of my favorite books specifically on Mallory, but it was novelized. This is pure fact, superbly researched and written, and it brings all of the players into focus so clearly. I was skeptical about Wade Davis writing about a climbing expedition, but he has great understanding combined with superb skills as a writer. It has never been so clear that those concepts of high altitude climbing so familiar to any modern climber were largely evolved during the three early attempts on Mount Everest.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It was definitely difficult to stop listening, but at 28 hours a bit long for a single sitting. It is certainly one that I will return to again and again.


    Any additional comments?

    Wade Davis has achieved a remarkable feat, produced a book on climbing the like of which may never be done again. It is a book that even non-climbers can read and enjoy. His descriptions of the trenches of WWI from the perspectives of the various players compares to some of the best writing on that period. This is truly a work of real genius.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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