BIOGRAPHY

The Moth and the Mountain: A True Story of Love, War, and Everest.

Avid Reader: S. & S.. Nov. 2020. ISBN 9781501143373. $28.. BIOG
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In 1933, Maurice Wilson (1898–1934) took off from England in a biplane with the intention of flying solo to Mt. Everest and then climbing it unsupported. This plan was audacious for multiple reasons, including his inability to fly, lack of mountaineering skills, and that he was forbidden to do so. As journalist and author Caesar tells in this fast-paced narrative, Wilson was a rebel and a World War I veteran who spent the postwar years marrying, divorcing, and traveling extensively. The author describes how, while recuperating from an illness, Wilson read about others taking on Everest and began to see the mountain as a place for “personal and metaphysical rebirth.” The book reads like a novel with twists and turns, as Caesar shows how British officials worked to discourage Wilson, who ended up flying to Darjeeling instead of Nepal. Forbidden from leaving Darjeeling, Wilson disguised himself as a Tibetan priest and walked to Everest. He died during his second climbing attempt in 1934. Throughout, Caesar incorporates new information in this historical account, including previously unpublished letters and family documents.
VERDICT Wilson has long been a footnote in Everest exploration, but this thorough and fascinating biography will remedy that. For readers of exploration, adventure, and Everest history.
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