Book review

Summit by Harry Farthing, Book Review

Summit – Harry Farthing


Title: Summit

Author: Harry Farthing

Publisher: Westland

Publication date: 25 Jan 2017

Rating: 5/5

Time period: 1939 and 2009-10

Set in: Germany,Kathmandu, Tibet, Mount Everest and  England.


The view from 8,848 meters is not always clear.. 

In the autumn of 1938, Germany’s reichsfuhrer, Heinrich Himmler, is growing frustrated at the British using their regional power in India to block the passage of an SS expedition to Tibet. Determined to spite them, he plots to steal something the British hold dear and have failed for the seventh time that spring to achieve — a first summit of Mount Everest. 

Seventy years later, seasoned mountain guide Neil Quinn’s ninth visit to the top of the world’s highest mountain, this time in charge of the sixteen-year-old son of a Long Island billionaire, begins to unravel. As a desperate fight for their lives begins in the freezing air high above Tibet, Quinn stumbles across a clue to a story that challenges everything he thinks he knows about the great mountain. 

When the bitter aftermath of Quinn’s disastrous climb turns to violent tragedy in Kathmandu, his discovery pushes him into a relentless journey that takes him from the dangerous heights of Everest to the equally treacherous margins of a new Europe, where history hungers to repeat itself.

Amid a rich and diverse cast of characters, each with their own reason to possess the mystery of his discovery, Neil Quinn has to fight, increasingly desperately, for order and the truth. 

My thoughts

Summit is about climbing the world’s tallest mountain – Mt. Everest, making ‘summit’ as it’s popularly known. This fictional account follows the story of 2 expert climbers, mountain men climbing the mother of all mountains 70 years apart. One on a mission to attempt it for the first time and the other having climbed numerous times before and this time being guide to a 16 year old hell bent on claiming the record of being youngest to make summit. The origins, reasons, countries of these two are different but 70 years later their stories cross paths and much speculated theories and legends get closure. Arriving at this closure via some thrilling discoveries is what makes reading ‘Summit’ exciting and engaging. 

Josef Becker is a disgraced German, nazi soldier given the secret task of conquering the elusive, yet to be successfully tamed by humans – the Everest and planting the Nazi flag atop. He is to make it to the top or die trying, there is no way out for Josef. What the Nazi officers fail to understand is what lies in the heart of this tall, proud, simple at heart, true blue mountain man. Josef agrees to climb the mountain just not to fulfil Nazi ambitions. He robs them of their lofty, arrogant wishes. Whether he succeeds and which flag he leaves atop the mountain is in itself a revelation after his difficult yet fulfilling journey to reach the top of the mountain. 

Seventy years later Neil Quinn, a British expert mountain guide is on his way to the summit with the 16 year old Nelson Tate junior, son of an American billionaire who wants his son claiming the record of being the youngest to make summit.  His role maybe simple of that to play his paid role of getting the teenager up and down the summit alive but the mountains have something else in mind. Things happen and unravel a chain of events spanning 3 countries as Quinn gets his hands on unexpected treasures on the mountain which are hungry for blood and a repeat of history. 

The book is so much more about 2 men with mountains in their blood crossing paths. It is about the mountain itself, about the human beings who attempt to climb and tame this nature’s beast, about the native experts – the Sherpas who are an integral part of every summit climb. It is about the Integral fabric of characters, myths, superstitions, politics and pride of success, achievements and about the darker side of failure, exploitation and death and mayhem caused by history’s unanswered questions on the summit. It is a tale of human arrogance to scale a treacherous, proud mountain. A mountain so majestic and lofty that it is treated as a goddess, someone equally feared and revered. 

It is simple for the native Sherpas as they treat the mountains as a goddess and believe it is the mountains who bless or curse every summit taken on it. This all may seem complicated and it is for some climbers, whose life criss crosses the vastness and physically testing conditions of the snow covered mountain. Some people are tested to their extreme physical and mental limits when climbing and for some it is as simple acclimatising themselves to the climate and successfully making it to and back from the summit. 

End of the day, Summit is a tale of 2 men, 2 countries and their Love for the mountains which is exploited by unsavoury characters from their surroundings. It is also about people who love the mountains and it’s history, about temporary and lifelong friendships and partnerships formed . I am not a mountain person, climbing it has never crossed my mind even after reading this story. However, I do love history and some honest, straightforward pure fiction inspired by history, the past – it’s achievements and failures. 

Summit provided me a thrilling plot, fantastic suspense, some well written and researched characters. To simply put it I loved Summit – all 632 pages.

Book buy link: Amazon India 

About the Author

Harry Farthing is a Fellow at the Royal Geographical Society and he has climbed Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn in the Alps, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Denali in Alaska and Shishapangma and Mount Everest in the Himalayas. Summit is his first novel.

Author Twitter

Reviewed by Bharti

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