Into the Silence

In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Into the Silence sets their remarkable achievements in sweeping historical context: Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of the war that destroyed all notions of honor and decency, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain’s elite, emerged as a symbol of national redemption and hope.

Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and endurance, and a timeless portrait of an extraordinary generation of adventurers, soldiers, and mountaineers the likes of which we will never see again.

Rave reviews for Into the Silence by Wade Davis

  • #1 Bestseller (Amazon UK)
  • National Bestseller (Canada)
  • #22 on (USA)
  • An Observer Book of the Week [2011]
  • An Editors’ Pick [Oct. 2011]A Daily Beast Must-Read Book [fall 2011]
  • Financial Times best travel books of 2011
  • Sunday Times best history books of 2011
  • A New York Magazine Pick for fall 2011
  • Indigo, Best Nonfiction of 2011
  • Featured in the Quill & Quire Fall Preview [July/Aug. 2011]

“Into the Silence is quite unlike any other mountaineering book. It not only spins a gripping Boy’s Own yarn about the early British expeditions to Everest, but investigates how the carnage of the trenches bled into a desire for redemption at the top of the world. . . . At its heart, Into the Silence is an elegy for a lost generation . . . a magnificent, audacious venture.” —The Sunday Times

“Brilliantly engrossing. . . . A superb book. At once a group biography of remarkable characters snatched from oblivion, an instant classic of mountaineering literature, a study in imperial decline and an epic of exploration.” —The Guardian“Magnificent . . . impressive . . . a vivid account.” —The Observer

“Powerful and profound, a moving, epic masterpiece of literature, history and hope.” —The Times“Davis has produced a magnificent, rigorously researched account of the expeditions that set out to regain glory for an empire in decline but, instead, created some of the most enduring legends of the 20th century.” —Financial Times

“The book is not the only one on the subject, but it is the only one most of us will ever need. . . . In Into the Silence, he brings his talents as an ethnographer to bear in portraying the mostly British teams that led the expeditions (a Canadian and an Australian figured prominently as well). . . . Davis’s thorough research gives him an almost omniscient eye. He is as sure-footed a sherpa as we could have hoped for on this journey.” —National Post

“It is a tribute not only to the power of Davis’s theme but to the grace of his writing that he has brought home anew, almost a century after it began, how unbearably sad the Great War was for contemporaries.” —Maclean’s

“Deeply researched and endlessly informative… Davis compresses a vast amount of information into this book, with one absorbing sub-narrative after another, in a prose style that is a model of exposition, neither lyrical nor cluttered.” - Sydney Morning Herald

“A magnificent work of scholarship—Davis’s annotated bibliography is a stunning work in its own right—and narrative drive, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest is a nearly perfect book, one of the two or three best titles to have ever come across this writer’s desk. The story Davis tells is as thrilling as any yarn from the days of romantic travel. . . He has written far and away the best account of this seminal chapter in the epic history of mountaineering.” One pushes to the end of Davis’s story with a growing sense of dread; we know what is coming, yet Davis’s account of Mallory’s last hours is shattering in its pathos.” —The National

“Wade Davis, the National Geographic explorer-in-residence, has managed the herculean task of bringing it all together in Into the Silence. Assiduously researched, this defining and exhaustive book is not for the faint of interest. Set aside a season for this extraordinary expedition.”- The New York Times

“Master historian, ethnographer and world-renowned eco-traveler, Wade Davis has written a genuinely gripping, thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated book. Into the Silence is a masterpiece standing atop its own world, along with the classic “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. Even the annotated bibliography that accompanies the text is a kind of masterpiece.” -Salt Lake Tribune

“A sweeping, meticulous and arresting account…Into the Silence is an epic endeavor, and Wade Davis is equal to it. A formidable researcher, the scholarship underpinning this book is impressive, but Davis is an equally formidable writer and Into the Silence stands out as an example of narrative non-fiction at its best.”- Literary Review of Canada

“Davis is a fine storyteller, and it is hard to resist the drama of the final moments - the image of Mallory and Irvine heading to their death, two black spots moving slowly up the Northeast Ridge, until the clouds sweep in and they vanish “in a world known only to them.’’ One comes away with a feeling almost of tenderness for these men, of admiration for their stoicism in the face of extreme suffering, and their willingness to risk everything for a transcendent ideal. It is, I think, a reflection of the author’s own view. A deep current of sympathy runs through the book... The quest, finally, is not for the summit of Everest, or even for the story of how it eluded these men, but rather for a complex and compassionate understanding of the world in which they lived and died.” -The Boston Globe

“Into the Silence is a great piece of exploration literature and first-rate social history. . . . [Davis] writes with extraordinary power about the awesome majesty and hypnotic lure of the great heights.” —The Gazette

“In his magnificent new book, Into the Silence, Wade Davis tells the full story behind this almost mythic story, imbuing it with historic scope and epic sweep, perceiving the quest to conquer Everest as an emblem of Britain's damaged nobility and infatuation with heroic failure.” – Los Angeles Times

“Brilliant. . . . The product of a decade’s research, Into the Silence has two supreme strengths, the first of which is the emotional, spiritual and historical context it provides against which to understand the central events. The other is the author’s effortless knack for sketching character. . . . As Davis notes, with the passing decades the tale has come to seem just as much ‘a reminder of national impotence.’ The ambivalent emotional charge of [Mallory and Irvine’s] passing, coming as it did at such a turning point in the history of the British Empire, fully justifies the efforts the author has made to encapsulate it. And encapsulate it he has, precisely, grippingly and with comprehensive wisdom.” —The Spectator

“Mr. Davis’s research is extraordinary, the scope of his book ambitious . . . , his writing sensitive and graceful, and the storytelling entertaining.” —The Wall Street Journal“Anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence Wade Davis climbs to new heights with Into the Silence.” —Quill & Quire

"Magnificent. . . . With these expeditions Davis is on tried and tested narrative routes, guaranteed to keep the reader roped closely to the page. . . . To keep this mass of material from bulging out of the narrative is an impressive feat of literary organization and management. To that extent the book is like the expeditions themselves: every inch of progress is dependent on an enormous supply train of information. There is nothing burdensome about this for the reader; the technical data is fascinating.” —Geoff Dyer, The Guardian

“Combining the pace of a thriller with a degree of detail as nuanced as any academic study, this is an atmospheric and exhilarating book.” —Time Out

“Utterly compelling. . . . [The] annotated bibliography . . . [is] a model of its kind and well worth reading in its own right.” — John Keay, Literary Review

“This profoundly ambitious book aims high itself, because it sets the subject of Everest in a specific historical context. . . . Impressive book. . . . This is perhaps the first book . . . to survey the matter not as a record of high adventure, exploration, mountaineering technique or political history, but as zeitgeist. . . . Its intentions . . . are terrific, so that although ostensibly it examines in such detail only a few years of the Everest story, in a way it tells it all. . . . Davis’s monumental work ranges far more widely through the matter of Everest, both on and off the mountain, with harrowing descriptions of life and death on the Western Front, with frank dissections of rivalries, motives, inadequacies and confusions, and measured character studies.” — Jan Morris, The Telegraph

“Lapidary prose . . . propulsive.” —The Washingtonian

“As with all his works, Davis relies on impeccable research to go into uncommon detail to outline a back story . . . . His own exploration experience helps him get into the minds of the climbers, [and] the descriptions of the ascents . . . are as breathtaking and astounding as any previous climbing literature.” —Publishers Weekly

“Davis gives us a detailed and rich account of those expeditions. . . . An incredible read . . . it all comes together brilliantly. It is hard to believe that there could be a more detailed account of those expeditions or a more accurate portrayal of the men who were involved in the whole affair. . . . This book puts that relationship [Mallory and Everest] in perfect perspective and gives you a better understanding of the climber and the challenge that would take his life. If you’re a fan of history, mountaineering, or Everest, than you’ll definitely want to own this book.” —The Adventure Blog

“Fascinating.” —Daily Mail

“Clearly a labour of love. . . . A formidable, impressive and captivating work that traverses much ground. . . . This is far more than a mountaineering story.” —Otago Daily Times

“Into the Silence offers rewards. Davis has a fine eye for the memorable detail. . . . His account of the 1924 expedition is succinct and compelling.” —The Washington Post

“Stunning.” —Daily Express (Verdict: 5/5)

“Utterly compelling…Not only a thorough examination of Mallory’s determined advances on Everest, but also insight into the psyche of post-war England.” —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Exceptional research. . . . [A] highly absorbing narrative.” —Star-LedgerAdvance Praise

“Into the Silence is a breathtaking triumph. An astonishing piece of research, it is also intensely moving, evoking the courage, chivalry and sacrifice that drove Mallory and his companions through the war and to ever greater heights.” —William Shawcross

“Into the Silence is utterly fascinating, and grippingly well written. With extraordinary skill Wade Davis manages to weave together such disparate strands as Queen Victoria’s Indian Raj, the ‘Great Game’ of intrigue against Russia, the horrors of the Somme, and Britain’s obsession to conquer the world’s highest peak, all linking to that terrible moment atop Everest when Mallory fell to his death. The mystery of whether he and Irving ever reached the summit remains tantalizingly unsolved. Into the Silence deserves to be an instant bestseller.” —Alistair Horne

“It’s a brilliant book. I can’t praise it enough.” - Christopher Hitchens

“The meticulously researched and definitive account of a legend. . . . Fascinating and immensely enjoyable.” —Leo Houlding

“I was captivated. They were a gilded generation and for me the nineteen twenties and thirties were the golden age of mountaineering. Wade Davis has penned an exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. They do not make them like that anymore. And there would always only ever be one Mallory. From the pathos of the trenches to the inevitable tragedies high on Everest this is a book deserving of awards. Monumental in its scope and conception it nevertheless remains hypnotically fascinating throughout. A wonderful story tinged with sadness.” —Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void

“The First World War, the worst calamity humanity has ever inflicted on itself, still reverberates in our lives. In its immediate aftermath, a few young men who had fought in it went looking for a healing challenge, and found it far from the Western Front. In recreating their astonishing adventure, Wade Davis has given us an elegant meditation on the courage to carry on.” —George F. Will

“Wade Davis’ mesmerizing telling of Mallory’s fabled story gives new and revealing weight to the significance of its post-war era and to Mallory’s dazzlingly accomplished and courageous companions. Into the Silence succeeds not only because Davis’s research was prodigious, but because every sentence has been struck with conviction, every image evoked with fierce reverence—for the heartbreaking twilight era, for the magnificent resilience of its survivors, for their mission, for Mallory, for his mountain. An epic worthy of its epic.” —Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance and The War That Killed Achilles

“Couldn’t put the damn thing down. Finished it yesterday. There are few books where the aftertaste of ending comes with a sense of sadness that it’s done.” –Thomas Hornbein


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