Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Thin Air - Michelle Paver

I blanched when I received this paperback from Nudge Books.For underneath the main title the phrase ‘A Ghost Story’ leapt out at me. I don’t choose to read ghost stories. And I’ve not told anyone this before but they spook me!  I don’t know why. They just do. So I decided to read this book in one sitting outside in the sunshine in broad daylight rather than snuggling up in bed with it reading by a bedside lamp casting shadows across my bedroom.

I needn’t have worried!! For, yes, it is a ghost story but not the moody, chain clanking, disappearing through walls sort of ghost story. It was a cerebral ghost story. I was surprised and delighted to find this an utterly absorbing and compelling tale that I think I would have read in one sitting regardless as once I began I didn’t want to put it down.

Michelle Paver is a new writer to me and my research shows she is a British novelist and childrens’ writer and I am pleased to have made her acquaintance! In this novel ‘Thin Air’ she has created an atmosphere so palpable it chills you to the bone - from the cold not the fear! The story deals with a mountaineering expedition in 1935 that in part replicates a previous expedition from 1907 to ascend the mountain Kanchenjunga which lies party in Nepal and partly in Sikkim, India.

The first thing that impressed me was the sustained recreation of the 1930’s; male camaraderie and old pals, linguistically perfect, as you completely believe in the characters and the mindsets of this group of climbers.

The research is thorough and the descriptions so rich that you can imagine every step on the ice and rocks and every nuance of creating the base camps and additional camps on the ascent. 

I’ve never been mountaineering but this book made me feel as if I had and maybe could! The attention to detail renders the whole story so plausible. The emotion created for both reader and the characters is a pendulum of exhilaration and agitation. Most of this achieved through the main protagonist Dr. Stephen Pearce. We make this trip very much with him. It is his responses we feel most keenly.

And the ghost element? Ah, no. I don’t do spoilers.

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