High Albania – Edith Durham

High Albania - Edith Durham
High Albania – Edith Durham

Edith Durham  (1863 – 1944) was an English artist, anthropologist/ethnologist and writer who travelled and worked in Albania between 1900 and 1914. One of those intrepid Victorian/Edwardian female explorers, High Albania is her account of her travels in Northern Albania in 1908, the time of the Young Turks and the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Lots of late nights, early mornings, conversations with Albanians and Franciscans, blood feuds, besa and firing of pistols.

A perfect read before, during and after our week walking in the Accursed Mountains.

Abebooks.co.uk: High Albania – Edith Durham

Goodreads review: High Albania – Edith Durham

Katherine – Anya Seton

Katherine - Anya Seton
Katherine – Anya Seton

I devoured any and all of Anya Seton’s novels that I could lay my hands on in my later teenage years.

Returning to Katherine, her telling of the story of Katherine de Roet, later Lady Swynford, and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, I found it less enthralling and more of a Mills & Boon mediaeval romance; a lengthier version of an Elizabeth Chadwick historical novel, with a slightly later, 14th century Plantagenets, setting.

Publisher page: Katherine – Anya Seton

The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer

The White Spider - Heinrich Harrer
The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer

A slow start – impenetrable style – but the going got easier as this account of attempts to climb the North Face of the Eiger progressed year by year.

Heinrich Harrer, of Seven Years In Tibet fame, was in the group of climbers who made the first successful ascent, in 1938.

Recalling my Urus ascent during 2015’s Cordillera Blanca Traverse, these words on page 83 resonated:

“Those hours between night and day are always a keen challenge to one’s courage. One’s body goes mechanically through the correct movements essential to gaining height; but the spirit is not yet awake nor full of the joy of climbing, the heart is shrouded in a cloak of doubt and diffidence….

They have to reconcile themselves with their own shortcomings and with constraining feelings; they have to subject themselves to the willpower already geared to the enterprise in hand. And so the first hour, the hour of the grey, shapeless, colourless dusk before dawn, is an hour of silence.”

First light, Urus ascent, Cordillera Blanca Traverse, Peru 2015
First light, Urus ascent, Cordillera Blanca Traverse, Peru 2015

Publisher page: The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer (translated by Hugh Merrick)