In The Shadow of the Sword – Tom Holland

In The Shadow of the Sword - Tom Holland
In The Shadow of the Sword – Tom Holland

My first taste of Tom Holland: A hefty hardback about the demise of great empires of the Ancient World, and the religions that existed and came into being during Antiquity.

Very readable, and I particularly enjoyed the Cyberman-like cover art and the Dramatis Personae (à la Lindsey Davis) that’s included at the end.

Author page: In The Shadow of the Sword – Tom Holland

Icemen: A History of the Arctic and its Explorers – Mick Conefrey and Tim Jordan

Icemen: A History of the Arctic and its Explorers - Mick Conefrey and Tim Jordan
Icemen: A History of the Arctic and its Explorers – Mick Conefrey and Tim Jordan

Easy reading chronologically ordered chapters covering the more familiar Artic Explorations including Franklin’s attempt to find the North West Passage and Peary’s claim to have reached the North Pole, and the more unfamiliar such as Andrée’s Artic Expedition by balloon and Amundsen’s by airship, and finishing up with the Artic’s role in World War II and the Cold War.

The book accompanied a BBC2 series and both date from 1998. I can’t find pages for either online.

Abebooks page: Icemen: A History of the Arctic and its Explorers – Mick Conefrey and Tim Jordan

Ghosts of K2 – Mick Conefrey

Ghosts of K2 - Mick Conefrey
Ghosts of K2 – Mick Conefrey

Another history of the 20th century’s attempts to ascend, and descend, the world’s second highest mountain – K2.

K is for Karakoram, and “The Savage Mountain” as it’s sometimes called, lies on the border between Pakistan and China, in the former’s far north west, an area I visited back in 2006, and fell in love with.

So, yes, trekking to Concordia is on my wish list.

Climbing K2 is not!

Conefrey’s 2015 book culminates with the ultimately successful 1954 attempt by the Italian team organised and run by Ardito Desio, although – in my view – not truly led by him as Professor Desio spent most of the time at Base Camp, leaving the mountaineering to the mountaineers – including Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli who made it to the top. The book also discusses the long term fall out, and falling out, that ensued.

I don’t recall Conefrey describing Desio as a Count, but that may account for his management style and insistence on hierarchy – and travelling by plane whilst leaving his lowlier mountaineering companion, Riccardo Cassin, to travel by train on their 1953 reconnaissance.

Author page: Ghosts of K2 – Mick Conefrey

Granta 87: Jubilee – Granta Magazine

Granta 87: Jubilee - Various, Granta Magazine
Granta 87: Jubilee – Various, Granta Magazine

It may have been because I’ve been so immersed in moving, and with all the subsequent sorting out and settling in, that I found this volume of Granta essays and stories much slower going than Hidden Histories.

On the other hand, it might have been the weightier subject matter. I did skip a few of the accounts relating to 21st century atrocities.

That said, I did enjoy the pieces on Benjamin Pell and Bollywood.

An easy reading novel next, I think.

Publisher page: Granta 87: Jubilee – Granta Magazine

Granta 85: Hidden Histories – Granta Magazine

Granta 85: Hidden HistoriesMy 1000th review on SparklyTrainers, and my last book of 2019.

Just right for dipping in and out for bedtime reading on the lead up to our move to Herefordshire. I particularly liked the last essay, Giles Foden‘s White Men’s Boats, and the personal histories from Diana Athill and Brian Cathcart.

And I’ve just spotted the Giles Foden has written a full length version of the hidden history of the World War I British naval expedition to Lake Tanganyika, overland, led by the inept Geoffrey Spicer-Simson: Mimi and Toutou Go Forth.

Publisher page: Granta 85: Hidden Histories – Granta Magazine