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“Jim Perrin has found a difficult, indeed a problematic biographical subject, with whom he has had a long but ultimately rewarding struggle. Why should J. Menlove Edwards be so difficult to write about? "The pioneer explorer of the Llanberis pass," as Joe Brown has called him, Edwards was considered, with Colin Kirkus, the finest British rock climber of the 1930s. He made numerous new routes in Wales, as well as the first unaided climb of the central buttress of Scafell when he was only twenty-one. But his achievement was all on rock and all in Britain. There were no dramatic expeditions, no foreign exploration of any kind. Relatively little was written about him in his day, and much of that, for reasons that Perrin makes clear, was fragmentary or evasive. Unlike the protagonists of so many climbing biographies and autobiographies, Edwards was more interesting than his accomplishments.
Edwards had a quirky but genuine literary gift; in his text and appendix, Perrin includes the best of his work—poetry, some classic imaginative climbing narratives. He quotes perhaps too heavily from the former, which he terms "inescapably minor," but whose biographical significance is undeniable. If Edwards' life had had more drama, if there had been more witnesses to its inner concerns, such reference would have been less tempting. Whatever their interest, these frequent block quotations do impede the narrative. (…)
Perrin's view of his subject changed as he worked on the book: "he is not the simple hero of the spirit I knew ten years ago." Perhaps he still idealizes him, if just a little. Edwards seems to have been a difficult man long before his terrible last years, when he turned on his friends in bitterness and irrationality. He could certainly be angry and difficult even in earlier times. In retrospect, such behaviour seems part of the pathology that finally dominated him. Yet he was also immensely patient, as well as capable in medicine and physically powerful. Just the man for a hard route or a crisis. His loss, which began long before his death, was a major one for the world of climbing—and also, less visibly, for that larger community which he had struggled to serve. Jim Perrin tells this unhappy story with sympathy and restraint.”
Steven Jervis, “American Alpine Journal” 1986, p. 319-321


“I like this excellent book, in spite of the author's sometimes weird interludes. Perhaps the moment of maximum aberration is reserved for the final coup de bizarrerie, when Perrin informs his readers, four pages from the end, that they have wasted their time in reading so far, unless, that is, they happen to agree with his thesis. (…)
Although Menlove has been allowed, in his own words, to suggest that he was the victim of his own internal conflict, the Perrin thesis is that Menlove's campaign was an 'external' one, against society. He lost, and, as members of that society, we are all to blame for the result. Perrin is not one for underplaying his hand, and I cannot help admiring the swashbuckling flourish with which he delivers his final coup:
'Anyone who can read this letter closely and with understanding, and not at the same time feel a little shamed, perhaps even in a sense inculpated, and yet at the same time thankful for the way in which Menlove had stood out for that in which he believed, and at terrible personal cost, has wasted his or her time in reading this far.' (p304!)
Well . . . Perrin is wrong, isn't he? It is possible to disagree with the Perrin thesis and still find the book an engrossing read. Perrin has, in spite of himself, allowed the reader to draw an alternative picture of Menlove's tragedy; with its origins in character rather than situation. Highly recommended, especially to Perrinophobes.”
A. V. Saunders, “Alpine Journal” 1987, p. 253-255


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