Synopsis (credit: www.amazon.co.uk)
A young man seeks to get a grip on his life by taking up rock climbing. He hopes that by engaging with the hard realities of the rock and the fall he can grasp what is important about life. But as he is drawn into the obsessive world of climbing he learns that taking things to the edge comes with its own price.
Retreating from his failed marriage to Pauline, Mike leaves London for the Yorkshire moors, where he meets Normal and his entourage, busy pursuing their own dreams of escape. Travelling from crag to crag throughout the country, they are searching for the unattainable: the perfect climb. Through rock-climbing, Mike discovers an intensity of experience — a wash of pain, fear and excitement — that obliterates the rest of his world. Increasingly addicted to the adrenaline, folklore and camaraderie of the sport, he finds, for a time, a genuine escape. But it is gained at a price ...
This dark, witty and poetic novel is full of the rugged beauty of nature, of the human drive to test oneself against extremes, and of the elation such escape can bring.
(Bought second-hand at CAFDA Charity Bookshop, Regent Avenue, Sea Point.)
The love of rock and the lure of rock climbing that form the core of this book will be familiar to anyone who has been under the influence of mountains. The author's descriptions — detailed and first-hand* — are the real deal.
Add to the mix his portrayal of the characters involved, in England of the 80s, and one ends up with real lives lived in a real world. His humour is wry and spot-on, and his description of the most intense of human situations brief or only by way of implication. The reader gets to know a lot about the colourful characters around the narrator and, gradually, something about the narrator himself.
Well written, with words and sentences sparsely selected and set out as if they were the moves, in precise sequence, of a tricky route to ascend.
* In this blog, the author describes how he kept detailed notes of his rock climbs, and includes some pictures of them.