Paths of Glory is the story of George Mallory’s life, from childhood to his death on the slopes of Everest. But it’s not a biography, or even really biographical fiction. It’s the story of George Mallory’s obsession with mountaineering, and where it took him.
Archer has researched Mallory’s life meticulously (and lists Mallory’s grandson, George Leigh Mallory II, in the acknowledgments page of the book). After finishing the book, I was interested enough to do some quick research of my own, and while I can find many things that Archer left out, I cannot think of anything that Archer got wrong. Archer seems to want to memorialize Mallory with this book; he is certainly of the opinion that Mallory reached the summit of Everest and was headed down when killed, even as he admits that there is no way to prove one way or the other.
Paths of Glory was a gripping read. I think it helped that I wasn’t familiar with Mallory prior to reading it, so that I really didn’t know what was coming next. I was eager to learn of the fate of each of Mallory’s companions, just as I wanted to learn of his wife’s reaction to his death. Most of all, as I mentioned, the book made me want to learn more — a greater compliment I cannot give.