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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

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tara
  • Blacksburg, VA, United States
  • 02-14-12

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mary
  • Madeira Park, BC, Canada
  • 01-31-14

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Arch
  • Ephemeral
  • 08-06-18

Fascinating Narrative

For those with an interest in Mt. Everest. One of my favorite listens. This epic history provides answers to a lot of questions you might have if you are curious about the conquest of the world's highest peak. The WWI background adds insight to the protagonists' mindset. The contrast between the beliefs of the climbers and the indigenous mystics of the Himalayas is informative. The story by itself is compelling, but the narration adds so much, allowing the listener to easily roll through the material. With some imagination you might feel like you were there.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic

Easy to listen to and a captivating story. The amount of research that went into putting this together is impressive.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Five Golden Stars

Any additional comments?

Into The Silence weighs in at half the length of War and Peace and is on the same huge scale. The unimaginable killing and maiming in the 1914-18 trenches of the Western Front in the words, the descriptions of some of the British officers and medics who lived through the daily slaughter. It takes these Brits of the old school, plus an occasional Canadian and Australian, and tells the story of how between 1921 and 1924, having survived against the odds the trenches, went on to attempt to climb Everest, which in those days lay weeks beyond the railhead over unknown Tibet.

A compulsive page-turner, I emerged from days of engrossed isolation in the exploding trenches, lying in a hurricane-blown old tent on the North Col at 23,000 ft about to be ripped 10,000 ft below onto the such-and-such glacier. I had frostbite and had lost my icepick.

The foreground is the stuffy world of upper-class Cambridge, London and the Raj of the first two decades of the 20th century. The climbers of Everest with at most feeble sprays of oxygen were the same boys, now disillusioned, who were mowed down, blown up, and bayoneted in the trenches, who built and were running the world’s greatest empire.

Into The Silence is among the great books already of the 21st Century, a hundred years on from the events it relates, superbly, coolly put together and written by Wade Davis, today a Prof of Anthropology at UBC Vancouver. Davis, a well-known Amazon explorer, was for many years the Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society in Washington DC. If you look him up on TED you will find a couple of fast, chatty talks on the disappearing worlds of the Tropics, the Deserts, the Arctic. Five golden stars.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Into the Wow! Details and brilliant narration!

So I was looking for a book about Everest and I got this massive, fantastic, historic, tome about The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. It truly is an amazing work and there are three things I really REALLY enjoyed about it.
1) The depth of research and the long reaching tendrils of detailed history that finally culminated with the historic climb. I actually had to double check my iPod and make sure I downloaded the right book because the opening WWI account was so long and detailed! It totally got me to Wish List some WWI history though, and I while I didn't mind, it was a bit of foreshadowing for what lay ahead. The WWI history I enjoyed, but as some of the other reviewers mention... the level of detail and length of time spent accounting for the route discovery, cartography, and overland journey to find and capture Everest got extremely tedious to listen to. Annnnnd without any sort of map (I usually print out my own area maps when listening to history anyway) or familiarity with the region, it was confusing, disorientating, and annoying. So yeah... #1 is a bit of Love/Hate that shouldn't be broken up.. but definitely falls into the positive half of my review. Its wordy and very in depth, but for most topics it works and is thoroughly enjoyed. You come out feeling accomplished and as if there's probably not anything out there about these first few years of Everest exploration that got missed.
2) The style of writing was very unique in today's world. It captured a nostalgic literary essence of the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. I felt as if I were listening to a book that could be a century old due to the authors choice of words, sentence structure, and creativity. It worked superb with the awesome British narrator!
3) The narrator was perfect! A British man who's accent is reminiscent of "old" WWI English speech, character, and pomp. His tone was borderline aloof and instructional, but also held just enough familiarization and warmth to not come across as a proper Brit, all stuck up, reading IKEA directions at you.
There were only two things I didn't particularly like about this book and while they're definitely not deal breakers in any way, they tend to come up when I discuss the book with people.
1) This is not the longest book in the world, but at times, it sure feels like it! In several very brief moments it feels like you're stuck in this never ending loop of a British geography class! Oh please make it stop!! PLEASE!!!! And right when you're to the point of considering x2 speed or skipping to the next chapter, it ends. Ahhhh :) Thank you!
2) The final wrap up of this book feels like it was rushed. We went on this amazing, long, detailed journey to get here and now... "Out ya go! GO! See ya later, bye bye now! Adios! GTFO!" And I'm out on the door step like WTF!? I thought we had like.. you know.. a connection or something? What's going on!? Now I'm out here all alone and... alone... and the books done? Really? Its a joke right? We sort of hit the closing pleasantries and said goodbye really fast but... I wanted a little more post Mallory that included some of that previous research and detail. Its not as bad as the ending to the movie Dracula 3000... but it could've been a little better.
If anyone made it this far, I hope my review helps to persuade you to read the book and not dodge it. Its a remarkable amazing book and Ill be giving it another listen in the future for sure. I led me to so many other studies and interests... WWI books, tea history and actually tea brewing.. which I'm now getting ready to do, and taste test several loose leaf teas. It got me into more Everest books, as well as documentary's and movies. It brought me around to inspecting my camp stove, which led to more gear research and purchasing, which led to more ammo, more emergency water storage, and new YouTube channel subscriptions. It goes on and on, and its always like this for me, which I find fascinating! I think all learning is connected and having one thing lead to so many others... Connections! James Burke! Ah anyway.. connections between everything is so great and fun to experience! This is a book that I found rewarding to "read" on many levels and would HIGHLY recommend it to people interested in the regions history or Everest. Great author and style of writing.. and the perfect narrator.