BY SUSAN MACNICOL
Above All Things tells the story of a husband and wife divided by a man’s ambitious desire to be the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It appears that George Mallory will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. After two previously failed attempts, one is left wondering how his wife Ruth finds the strength to support his ambitions as he leaves her behind once again to peruse this unrelenting goal.
Tanis Rideout has aptly captivated the sheer excitement and anxiety that George and his team felt day after day as they survived the trying conditions facing them. The novel centres on this plot and is interjected with the realities that Ruth experiences back home. She appears to fill her day with meaningless errands and activities in an attempt to reject the reality that haunts her every thought: “Will George return?”
Although the narrative breathes a breath of fresh air into the typical “love story” plot, the character of Ruth is disappointing. One can only hope that Rideout aimed to capture the “stereotypical” marital relationship of the 1920s and that she does not intend to write all her future female characters as such lovestruck weaklings.
Although the novel centres on George’s mountain-climbing experience, it is not spoiled with complicated jargon making it an accessible read to all. Above All Things is a captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction.
The novel is an easy read, perhaps a little too predictable though. Having said that, Rideout is to be commended for her fictional adaptation of this historic attempt to conquer Everest. It will be interesting to see in what direction Rideout moves with her next work.
Above All Things is published by Viking, R195.