Paths of Glory (Audio CD)
by Jeffrey Archer
I am a big fan of Jeffrey Archer’s work. I’ve been reading him since my childhood in the 70’s. More than anything else, I’ve always thought of him as one hell of a story-teller. Some of his novels are stronger than others, but for decades now, I’ve always come back for more. Therefore, even though I have no particular interest in mountain climbing, I looked forward with anticipation to reading Archer’s latest, Paths of Glory.
Paths of Glory is the story of real-life mountain climber George Lee Mallory and his epic quest to scale Everest. The novel opens with the discovery a decade ago of Mallory’s frozen body near the summit of Everest, where it had remained since 1937—never quite answering the mystery of whether he made it to the top. From that beginning, we go back to Mallory’s early childhood and are treated to a fictional biography of the major events of his life. Family, school, marriage, and the drive to explore are all covered. Additionally, Archer gives the reader one version of what might have happened that day in 1937, and even an epilogue regarding the fates of the other major and minor players.
It wasn’t bad. I didn’t actively dislike it. But I find myself hard-pressed to recommend the novel. It was a reasonably likable, easy read, but there seemed to be so little of substance ultimately. Really, it felt like one cute story after another, all strung along to illustrate why Mallory was such a generically worthy, likable guy. I can’t help thinking that there must have been so much more to the man. Nor did Archer do a particularly vivid job of painting the times in which Mr. Mallory lived. If Mallory really was the hero he was painted to be, I think he probably deserved better.
I should also mention that I listened to this novel as an unabridged audiobook. The narrator Roger Allam, did a passable job, but wasn’t particularly strong on accents. In the end, Allam failed where Archer failed… They took a true story but never managed to bring it to life.