Many thousands of people have climbed Mount Everest over the past 65 years, so it generally takes an unusual story to turn this experience into a bestseller. Alternatively, a famous name with high-quality communication skills may also do it. In Ben Fogle, we have an author who can certainly deliver the latter, if not necessarily the former.
This is a hard book to read if your only interest is Everest. Part-autobiography, it is unapologetically a book about Ben Fogle, his charming family life, and his psychological and literal path to the summit of Everest. Were he not a successful TV personality, it’s unlikely he’d be able to get away with a book containing so many ‘I’s, ‘me’s and ‘we’s. The constant references to his own life could be interpreted as intimate and honest, or as awkward oversharing, depending entirely on your opinion of Fogle himself.
Nevertheless, the narrative does increasingly become about the mountain, the people who live there, and what has become a well-trodden – if still occasionally dramatic – path to actually reach the top. Fogle happily admits to being a climbing novice, and explains how inexperienced tourists such as himself are, regardless, capable of being guided to the highest point on Earth, as well as acknowledging the privilege that enables him to be there. ‘Nothing about my climb was particularly unique,’ he admits. ‘But Everest was the culmination of my own romantic dreams. Each individual who stands atop that mountain has their own profound epiphany... for me it was profoundly life affirming.’
The deeper into the book you go, the easier it becomes to accept Fogle’s thoughts on the mountain, and his reasons for being there. The story becomes less about adventurous personality Ben Fogle on a wacky adventure, and more a genuine mission to reach the summit for a higher purpose than bragging rights or a TV show. The writing remains pretty one-dimensional throughout, but his obvious passion lends the words gravitas. It’s hard to begrudge him the pleasure of a lifelong dream come true.
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