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The Wildest Dream:
The Biography of George Mallory

By Peter and Leni Gillman

Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2000. UK Edition - Hodder Headline, 329 pages;

“The question is not why there have been so many books about George Mallory, but why there haven't been more. He was and remains a compelling figure, not least because of the cinematographic last glimpse of him on the slopes of Everest, but also because of his apparently effortless connections and his physical beauty. (…)
One of the great strengths of this new biography by Peter and Leni Gillman, is the generous good sense it exhibits in analysing Mallory's personal life. He had homosexual experiences, it's true, but so what? It would be difficult to leave public school and Cambridge behind now without something of the kind happening. But at Cambridge in the 1900s? And if he had been gay, then his life would have been more complicated but no less admirable. As it happens, the Gillmans tell us, he was straight, and happily married, except for the inevitable tensions that arose from his long absences during the Great War and afterwards on Everest. (…)
Perhaps this book's greatest achievement will be to redress the avalanche of cliche and self-justification that has surrounded the discovery of George Mallory's mortal remains. The bleached flesh and splintered bones of this gifted, forgetful, driven, privileged and generous man should not be the lasting image the public holds in its mind's eye. The Gillmans are partial to their subject, and at times a less generous view would have offered balance, but they show that at the core of himself George Mallory was a climber. And I'd sooner remember him for that.”
Ed Douglas, “Climber” 2000, April, p. 23-24


“When The Wildest Dream was originally published last year during the fag-end of the Mallory bodyhunt frenzy, most Everest-watchers probably thought, 'Great, just what the world needs - another George Mallory biography'. This was the state of expectation brought on by the rapid publication of no fewer than four books relating to the subject, each of which more or less recycled or semi-plagiarised Audrey Salkeld's definitive 1986 book The Mystery of Mallory & Irvine. (…)
The Gilmans, however, triumphantly proved the cynics wrong with their reappraisal of Mallory's life, which swept all before it at the Boardman-Tasker. They achieved this by the simple old-fashioned virtue of pursuing original research using primary sources, and refusing to be rushed into print before they were ready. The result, now available in paperback, is a magnificent portrait of the most famous mountaineer in history, and certainly the most incisive dissection of his complex character that has yet been achieved. Better than all of that, it is beautifully written and compelling; a tribute to the journalistic craftsmanship of Peter Gilman, the long serving Times veteran. (…)
Overall, the great strength of this biography lies in the authors' decision to dive deep into   the   heart   of   George Mallory, rather than fixating on the sterile, cold landscape of the North Col. In the words of Audrey Salkeld: 'Mallory was clearly one of the good guys', and The Wildest Dream amply demonstrates why this was so.”
Colin Wells, „On The Edge” 2001, November, No. 112,        p. 75

 

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