In Anita Shreve‘s A Change in Altitude (2009), newlyweds Margaret, a photojournalist, and Patrick, a new doctor at the Nairobi Hospital, experience altitude and attitude adjustments as part of a climbing party on Mount Kenya. Mount Kenya is the second of the three highest peaks in Africa to be discovered by European explorers, and along with a British couple and a Dutch couple, the young Americans face brutally strong sun but cold enough for parkas. Climbing advice (which applies to other challenges) includes:
They often get into trouble because they haven’t allowed their bodies to acclimate to the height and the thinner air…
Adapting to the thin air is the least of Margaret’s challenges after a tragedy on the mountain forces her to find the courage to live a new life in contemporary Africa. She underestimates the complexity of the political and social realities of her new situation. but ultimately finds her way, and forgiveness.
Mt. Kilimanjaro, also in Africa, figures along with other peaks in the third of a multi-generational saga by Jennifer Donnelly. In The Wild Rose, Willa had been the first up the Kilimanjaro’s Mawenzi peak.
She always traveled and worked alone. She preferred it that way, but even if she hadn’t, there was no other choice… Willa would have gladly signed on to any number of expeditions sponsored by the RGS, but they would not have her…
From the Antarctic explorations of Seamus, to the high society and secret wartime agenda of Max Von Brandt in 1914, different types of cliffhangers are resolved in this final volume.
Jeffrey Archer‘s fictional works often read like biographical fiction, or are based obliquely on historical figures and facts. The fifth of his most recent series, the Clifton Chronicles, came out in 2015. A hidden gem in his older books is Paths of Glory. In this biographical fiction of George Mallory, Mt. Everest mountaineer, the suspense and relationship challenges are reliably Archer.
From his days as an adventurous school boy to his courtship and marriage to the love of his life, Ruth, and in the politics of financing expeditions in the early 20th century, George Mallory was wholly persistent. As one character writes to his wife:
However much I yearned for him to stay at home and lead a normal life, that was never going to be a possibility… your husband is no ordinary man… you cannot, indeed must not stand in the way of his destiny…
There is no irrefutable proof as to whether George Mallory was the first to summit Mt. Everest or not – but in fiction there is latitude with the truth and we are engaged in George’s goal.
Rules of Deception by Christopher Reich starts off with a tragic adventure in the eastern Swiss alps. The barometric pressure drops and it isn’t thunder the climbers hear, but the noise of a slab cracking and breaking free… In the first book of the Dr. Jonathan Ransom series, the suspense continues, with secrets, betrayals and international terrorism. Nothing is what it appears to be. Perhaps it was safer on the mountain!
A smaller mountain in Wales and a different type of ethical dilemma faces Alec in The Long Walk Home. The climb and the weather mirror his challenges to do the right thing. After he scatters his ex-wife’s ashes in a hailstorm, he comes across Fiona’s husband David. Weak from sheep dip disease, David has no business on the mountain and is close to death by exposure.
Exploring both the life as a caregiver and mid-life love, Will North shows love both lovely and harsh – just like the countryside and mountain.
Primarily a non-fiction ghost writer, he writes wonderful descriptions but also captures an essence of why people head to the mountains.
It’s not abut the peak, it’s about the place…it’s about the magic of this particular spot, this particular mountain, about how different it is from any other, about it’s antiquity, its drama, its danger even.
Hidden gems is a blog series by Cathy Okhuysen of the Public Services staff at PPL, lover of historical and general fiction and contemplative music singer. If you have suggestions for something that should be included in a future blog post, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.