‘Thin Air’ – Michelle Paver

Grimly atmospheric, haunting and deeply unsettling.

Thin Air is told through the eyes of Stephen Pearce, the late addition to an expedition to try and be the first party to climb Kangchenjunga in 1935. Following in the ill-fated footsteps of an earlier party, we journey with the group as they travel to the foothills of the mountain and then attempt their challenge.

I’ve never been anywhere this high or remote, but Paver brings the experience to vivid life for us. She captures the beauty and menace of the mountains, showing us how easy it can be for someone to succumb to fears in the face of their own humanity.

The superstitions held by the local climbers play a large part in this book, and we are never certain whether the group are indeed haunted by something lurking in this dangerous wilderness or whether we are watching the gradual deterioration of men pushed to their physical limits. 

It’s hard not to be captivated by the exhilaration of the climb and the descriptions of the journey. Of its time, the attitudes shown by the English travellers were nothing to be proud of. The climax occurred quite unexpectedly and didn’t focus on the character I thought was most affected by the journey.