Michelle Paver has done it again. She’s managed to persuade me that she’s really John Buchan and Erskine Childers in one, blended with a bit of Kipling. In Thin Air the reader is – once more – transported to the 1930s, and this time it’s to climb Kangchenjunga. And as if that’s not enough of an ordeal, the mountain is haunted.
Thin Air is an adult novel, but only just. There is nothing unsuitable for younger readers keen on climbing and adventure, and who don’t mind being scared by the ghost of Kangchenjunga.
Dr Stephen Pearce is a last-minute replacement as the medic in the climbing team which consists of his older brother Kits, his brother’s best friend and two military climbers; one of whom is described as ‘a shade off in the vowels’ compared with these rather snobbish sahibs.
They are to follow the same route as a famous – but disastrous – climb almost thirty years earlier.
And, well, maybe they shouldn’t have.
This is such a marvellous tale of adventure, and you feel alternately exhausted by the climb and scared of whatever, whoever, is lurking out there in the snow. You admire the sherpas for their skills and patience with these strangers who call them coolies and yak-wallahs, and look down on the very men there to help them potentially become famous. If they succeed. Maybe even if they don’t.
If they survive.
The period feel is superb. As is the rising tension in the sahib camp.
You’ll not get me up there.