To Live by Élisabeth Revol is a personal tale of Revol’s experience in climbing the Killer Mountain, Nanga Parbat – the ninth highest mountain in the world. When Vertebrate Publishing got in touch to ask whether I’d like to review a couple of their books, I was especially excited to see the To Live on the list.
- Book: To Live
- Author: Élisabeth Revol
- Pages: 139 (extra for appendix)
- Time taken to read: 4-5 hours
- Emotion/feels: 10/10
- Rating: 4/5
It wasn’t a book I’d seen before, and I hadn’t heard of Revol or her expeditions but for me, the fact there’s a woman in the mountaineering space was really thrilling and I simply had to pick it. Here is my spoiler free and honest review of the book:
Firstly, I was pretty confused by the first chapter, which introduces Everest. I thought I was here to read a book about Revol’s experience on Nanga Parbat… The intro didn’t make much sense to me until later on in the book and I was painfully aware that it was a translation, which initially gave me some reservation about continuing.
As I turned the pages, this reservation melted away pretty quickly and I soon became totally engrossed in the story (honestly, I couldn’t put the book down). It was read within a day, which as I’m a fairly slow reader was good going for me. It needs to be a pretty intense book for me to not lose interest part way through and, quite simply, I couldn’t get enough of this. It has left me wanting more ‘stories’ like it from more pioneering women. The emotion that it invoked was powerful and inspiring – to be honest, I would have been really disappointed if a book like this hadn’t managed to provoke such emotion. You are after all following the tale of someone’s survival in one of the most hostile places on the planet.
‘We’re two solitary people on this huge mountain, but we are not afraid of it – quite the contrary. We love it, this limitless freedom! We came in search of it.’Revol, P. 9
The way she tells her story makes you acutely aware that she knows exactly what she’s getting into when she scales mountains and does it anyway despite the dangers. The euphoria that comes across through her description is startling, and made me as an everyday person gain an inkling of understanding of why people seek out these wild places. In a small way, I can relate to that need to be out there on a mountain-top. It’s just my mountain tops aren’t thousands of metres high – but that addiction to the climb and summit is still there.
Revol, P. 18
‘I am between two worlds: the earth and the sky. My knees are firmly glued to the ground by gravity, but my hands are touching the heavens’
‘I don’t go up there to fight – I hate warrior analogies for mountaineering, like the dramatic stories of mountaineers in distress. I go up there to live life fully, my life.’Revol,
Revol’s retelling of her experience there is in part magical but also devastating and I couldn’t get enough, morbid as that may be – an insight into the places I will never tread myself and into a mindset I don’t believe possible of myself.
I have a huge welling of emotion in my chest reading this – the kind where you really have to force it back down. Admiration for this incredible woman, her achievements and what she went through. What happens in this book is not something I can ever truly comprehend – the experience, the situation and the choices she has to make – but this book does the job of putting you there and living through her life experience.
For Revol to be speaking about her story, as a woman, my heart is overwhelmed at the example she has set for all those girls/women who may not know what they can achieve.
If you know someone who’s heart is in the mountains then this is a really very perfect gift idea.
The book itself is very beautiful – the hardcover is a deep blue with silver embossing. The dust jacket is a portrait of Revol, covered in ice. Simple but startling beautiful book design – just the kind I like on my shelf!
My only criticism is that the intro didn’t make such sense to me and the excessive use of exclamation marks. I feel like these are two fairly easy things to look past for the story itself.
Where can you buy your copy?*
You can buy your copy from Vertebrate Publishing – they’re a small indy publisher focusing on stories from the great outdoors.
Or if you don’t want to buy from them directly you can use their store through Bookshop.org to buy their books, while still supporting them.
*These links are not sponsored – the book was gifted and this is my honest opinion. I’m sharing these links because I genuinely loved this book and this every outdoorsy woman (not narrowed to) should read it.