I have been fan of Jeffrey Archer’s writings from college days when I first read “Kane and Abel”. I must have read all his books and some of them multiple times. Even his short stories are amazing with great twists and turns. When I picked up “Paths of Glory”, I was expecting a similar experience. But this book literally and figuratively took me to the greatest heights of Mount Everest. The book is a fictionalized account of mountaineer George Mallory who made multiple attempts to scale Everest and in his last attempt he died after slipping off a ridge in 1924. Whether he slipped before or after scaling the Everest is still a mystery.
According to Archer’s book, Mallory slipped after scaling Everest in 1924, that is 29 years before Hillary conquered it and came back alive. His story is based on the premise that Mallory had promised his wife that if he scales the Everest, he will leave his and his wife’s photograph on the peak. He used to carry the photograph in the pocket of his jacket. When Mallory’s body was found in 1999, there was no photograph with him even though other papers were found in his clothes.
Whether Mallory conquered it or not is probably of less significance to me but his attempts to scale Everest itself are legendary. This is a book that really highlights the grit and determination of Mallory and his team at a time when they did not have much technology to support them. The description of multiple attempts that his team made have been written really well and you get a feel of hardships that these people faced to stand on the top of the Earth. Just the fact that somebody did conquer it but it took them 29 more years itself shows the feat that Mallory achieved.
Of course, the style in which Archer has written the book adds to the fun. His way of writing almost makes it look like a romantic and heroic at the same time. This is not a regular Archer book but it is one of his best even if we leave the controversy aside.