More and more, however, families and friends of those who die on Everest and the world’s other highest peaks want and expect the bodies to be brought home. For them and those tasked with recovering the bodies — an exercise that can be more dangerous and far more costly than the expedition that killed the climber in the first place — the drama begins with death.
When someone dies, those left behind, from climbing partners on the scene to family and friends half a world away, are immediately faced with enormously daunting decisions and tasks. The rituals, customs and logistics of what happens next are always different.
I’m in the middle of writing a novel that has, at its center, an affair between a 15-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man. I’ve tried to figure out what drew me to this scandalous and disturbing, but also titillating, subject matter. I know I’m a product of my culture, a culture that produced the expression “jail bait” out of a need to acknowledge both the temptation and the possibility of punishment that underage girls present to adult men. And I’m also trying to autopsy that culture, to slice into its organs and put them under bright light and magnification and conduct an inquiry. When I think about the pursuit this way, it seems honorable. But a novel is, at its most basic level, a form of entertainment, so I have to consider my motives.
Six Minutes in May, by Nicholas Shakespeare, chronicles Churchill’s lightning-quick rise to power following Hitler’s invasion of Norway. Shakespeare, better known as a novelist, has written an absorbing account of how events 1,300 miles away across the North Sea led to the most drastic cabinet reshuffle in modern British history.
The author brings pathos to everyone’s life, but it’s especially striking how much the adults — Danielle, David and Rae, David’s discarded mistress — are punished for their misdeeds, ending up, respectively, dead, in the throes of dementia and alone. At heart the book is about the damage done to children by adults.