Tanis Rideout has been in a kind of knock-wood daze since last fall, when her debut novel, Above All Things, sparked a bidding war among eager international publishers. If the 38-year-old author was known at all before then, it was for doing spoken word performances on a tour organized by her friend, the folk singer Sarah Harmer, to save the Niagara Escarpment from development. Above All Things is miles away from the earnest world of eco-poetry. Its plot intertwines the true story of mountaineer George Mallory’s doomed 1924 Everest expedition with an imagined day in the life of his wife, Ruth, during her agonizing (though not altogether angelic) wait for him back in England. The idea came to Rideout over a decade ago while she was working at a camping equipment store that screened historical adventure documentaries. She found herself transfixed by grainy footage of Mallory’s entourage snaking through the Himalayas, clad in gabardine. The resulting book is a ripping yarn that balances obsessive historical nerdery (Mallory brought with him dozens of tins of foie gras and bottles of Montebello champagne) with Imax-worthy adventure and romance. It’s a story begging for book clubs and screen adaptations, and that should ensure that Rideout never has to work in retail again.
Above All Things
by Tanis Rideout