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

Category: Book
By (author): Caesar, Ed
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Adventurers & Explorers
  HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries
  HISTORY / Military / World War I
  TRAVEL / Essays & Travelogues
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
Published: November 2020
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 288
Size: 9.25in x 6.25in x 1.00in
Our Price:
$ 37.00
Available to order

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*An extraordinary true story about one man's attempt to salve the wounds of war and save his own soul through an audacious adventure.

In the 1930s, as official government expeditions set their sights on conquering Mount Everest, a little-known World War I veteran named Maurice Wilson conceives his own crazy, beautiful plan: he will fly a plane from England to Everest, crash-land on its lower slopes, then become the first person to reach its summit-all utterly alone. Wilson doesn't know how to climb. He barely knows how to fly. But he has the right plane, the right equipment, and a deep yearning to achieve his goal. In 1933, he takes off from London in a Gipsy Moth biplane with his course set for the highest mountain on earth. Wilson's eleven-month journey to Everest is wild: full of twists, turns, and daring. Eventually, in disguise, he sneaks into Tibet. His icy ordeal is just beginning.

Wilson is one of the Great War's heroes, but also one of its victims. His hometown of Bradford in northern England is ripped apart by the fighting. So is his family. He barely survives the war himself. Wilson returns from the conflict unable to cope with the sadness that engulfs him. He begins a years-long trek around the world, burning through marriages and relationships, leaving damaged lives in his wake. When he finally returns to England, nearly a decade after he first left, he finds himself falling in love once more-this time with his best friend's wife-before depression overcomes him again. He emerges from his funk with a crystalline ambition. He wants to be the first man to stand on top of the world. Wilson believes that Everest can redeem him.

This is the tale of an adventurer unlike any you have ever encountered: complex, driven, wry, haunted, and fully alive. He is a man written out of the history books-dismissed as an eccentric, and gossiped about because of rumors of his transvestism. The Moth and the Mountain restores Maurice Wilson to his rightful place in the annals of Everest and tells an unforgettable story about the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Review Quote*"Ed Caesar has written a slim, ravishing chronicle that is absolutely bursting with life-doomed romance, the dread of the battlefield, the lure of adventure, hair-raising tales of amateur aviation, and, above all, the beauty and madness of the quest to ascend Earth's tallest summit. Maurice Wilson is as rich and full of surprise and contradiction as a character in a novel, and through painstaking historical research, Caesar brings his hero back to vivid life in all his messy, inspiring, ultimately tragic glory. A major feat of reporting and elegant storytelling."
-Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing

"A wonderful adventure story, beautifully told. Based on years of painstaking archival research, Ed Caesar's The Moth and the Mountain brings us a modern-day myth with a beguiling, impossible hero from a vanished era of empire, one man on an epic quest that is by turns gripping and heartbreaking."
-Adam Higginbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl

"The Moth and the Mountain is a gripping story of heroism, adventure, madness, and thwarted love, told with extraordinary empathy and intelligence. Ed Caesar is a writer of rare style and depth, and he has written a great and moving work of nonfiction."
-Mark O'Connell, author of Notes from an Apocalypse

"The Moth and the Mountain is gorgeous and deeply affecting book: a tale of tragedy and obsession, pluck and luck, told at the pace of a thriller and bursting with heart. Ed Caesar deploys every ounce of his considerable journalistic skill as he uncovers the true story of a great British eccentric driven by forces he only partly understands to the ends of the earth. This book deserves to be counted alongside Wade Davis's Into The Silence as one of the best ever written about the early attempts to conquer Everest. It is a fine, fine slice of history by a truly special writer who proves time and time again that he is among the best of his generation."
-Dan Jones, author of The Templars

"A story of adventure and war, of eccentricity and courage, of love and secrets and of the overwhelming urge one man had to climb the world's highest mountain. Ed Caesar writes like a dream, beautifully piecing together Maurice Wilson's life with compassion and intelligence. It's hard to imagine a finer tribute to one of Everest's forgotten heroes."
-Elizabeth Day, author of How to Fail

"Why climb the world's highest mountain? For King and Country; for the glory of God; because it is there. Or, as for Maurice Wilson, because of an unhappy love affair, a wartime trauma, and a longing to get away from a life whose values are measured at the cash register. In Ed Caesar's telling, the hapless, defiant Wilson becomes an unexpected hero-an unforgettable inspiration for anyone who chafes at the limits of ordinary life." 
-Benjamin Moser, author of Sontag

"Caesar has created a widely appealing and affecting character study, microhistory, story of love and loss, and inquiry into some surprising effects of trauma and personal tragedy."

"An evocative portrait . . . This entertaining, well-researched chronicle is a valuable addition to mountaineering history." 
-Publishers Weekly

"Compelling . . . Instructive . . . As becomes clear not long after its starting gun, this book transcends the search for a two-hour marathon." -The Washington Post
Review Quote*"Essential reading for every runner . . . Caesar's conversational voice grabs your attention instantly, making you feel as if you're running alongside elite marathoners, visiting hometowns of the greats like Mutai and Haile Gebrselassie-and ultimately you will think you're reading a fictional story rather than an intensely research-heavy non-fiction book. But that's what it is. . . . Is it possible that things are only impossible when we think they're impossible? That's the question you're left pondering after you put Two Hours back on the shelf." -Men's Fitness
Review Quote*"Explores the lives, training routines and ancestry of today's greatest marathoners . . . Caesar, a war correspondent who has reported from Africa, Iran, and Kosovo, can amusingly sketch the marathon's ‘creation myth' (the heroic tale of the Greek messenger Pheidippides in 490 B.C., he says, ‘was bunk'), then switch gears and discuss the science of lung and leg capacity and the thorny matter of doping with analytical rigor. There's beautiful imagery here, too: a training group's predawn run in the dusty lanes of the Rift Valley, 50 or 60 Kenyans arranged in single files with the sky ‘still black and buckshot with stars'; Geoffrey Mutai pulling away from the lead pack-to say nothing of the more than 50,000 other participants-to win the 2013 New York City Marathon (‘It was just him, alone, on Fifth Avenue. He had become the workings of his own body')." -New York Times Book Review
Review Quote*"A zippy, engaging book . . . The writing is stylish and evocative . . . Two Hours centers on the sport's most hotly debated question: will a runner ever clock up their 26 miles and 375 yards in under this time? Caesar follows Geoffrey Mutai, the great Kenyan athlete, in his quest to silence the doubters. In big, confident strides, he also covers marathon history, the science of endurance and the thorny matter of doping." -Financial Times
Review Quote*"Entertaining and informative . . . Caesar's winning prose will keep even armchair readers turning pages, perhaps tuning in to watch the next marathon. . . . Wide-ranging and compelling." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Review Quote*"Caesar, who has reported widely from Africa, does great work capturing the lives, training routines, and proud ancestry of these amazing runners, not to mention the pitfalls and dangers they face before and after they achieve fame. This strong tale covers the joys of athletic triumph and the pain of missed opportunities, while investigating what it means to be born or bred a champion and what it will take to for someone to make running history. Caesar proves himself an engaging storyteller with a book whose time has come." -Publishers Weekly
Review Quote*"Caesar is not the first to explore what it will take to break the two-hour barrier, nor is he the first to go to East Africa in search of what fuels today's great marathoners, but the strength of Two Hours is in combining copious research and emotional human storytelling into a fast-paced narrative." -Stephen Kurczy, Vice Sports
Review Quote*"You might think, at first, that you're going for a very long morning run with a small African man through the streets of Berlin. Before you know it, you're chasing the white whale of human endurance-the two-hour marathon-down every one of its psychological, physiological, geographical, historical, and cultural side streets, running with a tailwind that only great narrative craftsmen like Ed Caesar can exhale." -Gary Smith, author of Beyond the Game