Rob and Jamie are great friends from childhood. They have grown up together and become top climbers, but have since become estranged. Rob is nevertheless amazed and grief-stricken when he hears of Jamie's death after a fall on a relatively easy Welsh rockface. The past, though, hides the secret clues behind the tragedy. Layer by layer Simon Mawer ...
Rob and Jamie are great friends from childhood. They have grown up together and become top climbers, but have since become estranged. Rob is nevertheless amazed and grief-stricken when he hears of Jamie's death after a fall on a relatively easy Welsh rockface. The past, though, hides the secret clues behind the tragedy. Layer by layer Simon Mawer peels back what happened, going not only into the friends' childhoods but that of their parents - who were also intimate. And there is no escaping that past - vividly imagined scenes in the London of the Blitz reveal how through two generations Rob and Jamie and their respective parents have been addicted - to desire and the heady dangers of climbing. Brilliantly structured as we move from past to present and back again, this novel will make Simon Mawer's literary reputation.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-12-23 Uncommonly wise and painstakingly crafted, this tale of struggles on personal and physical slopes ranges from present-day Wales to blitz-era London, tracking two generations of tangled love affairs. It begins with the death of acclaimed mountain climber Jamie Matthewson near his home in craggy North Wales. When Jamie's childhood friend Rob Dewar goes to visit Matthewson's widow, Ruth, the novel steps backwards in time to recount the story of Jamie's relationship with Rob and Ruth. From their childhood onwards, Jamie and Rob share a love of mountain climbing, of the sheer danger involved in it. The two men are rivals as athletes but also as lovers, as they compete for the love of many women-from Ruth, a drifting free-spirited artist who eventually marries Jamie, to Jamie's mother herself. As Ruth's relationship with Jamie evolves, it does not necessarily cool with Rob, straining the friendship between the two. Mawer gradually reveals that the complications began before either Jamie or the narrator were born, describing the kindling of romance between Jamie's father, himself a mountain climber, Rob's mother and Jamie's mother in England during the heady years of World War II. Although the mountain-climbing descriptions sometimes threaten to overpower the novel with their intensity, their metaphorical significance always wins out. Mawer has created characters and situations that overflow with truly believable pain and exhilaration, and he endows the narrative with a surging energy that pushes the book forward, all the way to an end which, like the final line of a haiku, casts a startling light on everything that came before it. (Jan. 7) Forecast: Mawer has made a name for himself as a brainy, broad-canvas novelist (Mendel's Dwarf; The Gospel of Judas). This quieter effort may attract a few mountain-climbing aficionados in addition to Mawer loyalists. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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