Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Into the Silence by Wade Davis

I've read a good deal of non-fiction over the past few years, a lot of it revolving around military history and another good portion of it around outdoor adventures.  Into the Silence covers both topics and covers them in a manner better than any work I've come across.

Truly a staggering achievement, Davis' book was seemingly marketed toward the Into Thin Air crowd--not that there is anything wrong with that--but this book covers so much more than just Mallory and Irvine's ill fated attempt at Everest in 1924.

It covers not only the 1924 expedition but the series of exploratory expeditions and attempts in the years leading up to the 1924 edition as well as the participants upbringings and particularly their experiences in WWI.  Its hard to describe just how comprehensive Davis' work is.  Davis goes through all the members of all the expeditions amounting to several dozen individuals and doesn't skimp on the information provided on any of them.  Details are pulled from personal diaries, military documentation, interviews with descendants, films, photography and a seemingly endless list of other sources.  Everything is detailed in the copious appendixes though the work is not simply a regurgitation of other peoples facts and figures.

Davis tells this story with a flair.  He sets the groundwork and background of the period in which these individuals grew up in and where they came from.  He details the affect being brought up in privileged, private, all boys schools had on them, how their war experiences changed their world views, how they interacted with the Tibetans they encountered on the expeditions.  Everything is here.

And its anything but boring.  Davis includes absolutely horrific experiences of the trenches and covers a great deal of WWI history (you could do worse in learning about WWI than reading this non-military history book) and wonderful scenes of exploration across Tibet.  Which is also an integral part of this work--the history of England and the Raj and their interactions with Tibet.  Again, the coverage of England's relationships with Russia and China and others are covered here as well as English politics of the time.  Really there is so much that is covered here its insane and the fact that it is so entertaining makes it the best piece of non-fiction I have perhaps ever read.  If you have any interest in WWI, England, Tibet, Everest, Mallory, etc. then you owe it to yourself to read this book.

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