Review

Paths of Glory

by Jeffrey Archer

Time and a snow-covered mountain at the top of the world offer
no clues about a mission’s completion. The expedition taken
on by an English schoolmaster in 1924 unfolds in this latest novel
by Jeffrey Archer, who uses literary license to introduce George
Mallory as his passionate hero. In truth, Mallory remains an enigma
because there is no proof that he reached the summit of the
world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest. However, PATHS OF
GLORY tells Mallory’s story like a fairy tale of adventure,
desire and passion for achieving what no man had yet to
accomplish.

Archer’s research gives us a real human being, with dreams
that urge him forward.  As a young child, Mallory, on holiday
at the beach with his family, nearly drowns when he surfs the water
to reach a high rock far from shore. Rescued by his father, the
child courts a near miss with death but appears unafraid. Mallory
has no concept of fear, no sense of risk.

Early on, Mallory wonders why his sisters will not be offered
the equal chance for education afforded him and his brother. But
life at the turn of the century in England has not yet witnessed
such movements as women’s suffrage and equal opportunity for
education and occupation, ideas that Mallory, as a free thinker,
espouse. An amusing tale emphasizes his love of climbing when he
scales a wall for his primary interview at the college. During his
time at Cambridge, Mallory pursues his alpine sport of mountain
climbing. On holiday, he and George Finch, now members of the CUMC
club, tackle the mighty Swiss Alps. Mallory soon receives accolades
from Englishmen who consider him unorthodox but a sterling
mountaineer.

He and Finch both revere the majestic ladies they seek to
conquer. They join the quest to climb Mont Blanc, on holiday from
class, where disaster betrays them in the form of an avalanche. But
Mallory recovers and renews his desire to achieve what no man has
done --- to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain.
At over 27,000 feet, she is affectionately called Chomolungma,
Goddess Mother of the Earth.

While teaching, Mallory meets a rival to the mountain for his
first love. Ruth Turner, daughter of a nobleman, flirts with
Mallory’s friend but fancies the handsome youth whose hobby
becomes his obsession. Again, he proves his willingness to court
her by a high-rise shenanigan in Venice. He’s successful, and
Ruth becomes Mrs. Mallory.

Archer writes the Mallory story as a novel, but the reader
invades the psyche of a real man with an inexhaustible desire to
fulfill his dreams. How much Archer embellishes is unimportant
because we walk in Mallory’s boots as he tries for the
summit. When the Royal Society makes plans for their first attempt
on Mt. Everest, Mallory is invited. Enthusiastic, he takes a
sabbatical from teaching to join the expedition. Finch is convinced
that oxygen canisters are necessary for the climbers to breathe in
the altitude, but Mallory rejects the idea, standing fast to that
belief throughout the journey.

PATHS OF GLORY unveils Mallory’s personal commitment to
the expedition through letters he writes to his beloved Ruth.
Whether these letters are truth, in fact, can be suggested by
Archer’s research involving Mallory’s grandson, George
Leigh Mallory II. Archer writes a lengthy epilogue describing the
lives, accomplishments and deaths of those involved in
Mallory’s saga. It had been his desire to place Ruth’s
picture on the summit of Everest when he set foot on the peak. To
this day, the mystery remains.

Many books have been written about the conquest of Everest,
acquainting the uninformed about the dangers of such a climb.
We’ve become familiar with the brave Tibetan Sherpas, who
risk their lives to guide those climbers as they ascend. PATHS OF
GLORY is a salute to Sherpas, the realities of life at 27,000 feet,
and the valiant climbers who were the first to challenge
Chomolungma.

Although Mallory’s final challenge is undocumented, the
reader is his cheerleader throughout his journey. A rousing hurrah
has to spill from our lips when we read of his remarkable
adventure.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 14, 2011

Paths of Glory
by Jeffrey Archer

  • Publication Date: December 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312539525
  • ISBN-13: 9780312539528