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Taking on the World
Ellen MacArthur

Amazon.co.uk Review
When Ellen MacArthur became the youngest person ever to complete yachting's most gruelling race, the Vendée Globe, she also assured herself of a place in sporting history as the fastest woman ever to circumnavigate the globe. As the world watched the images of her disasters and triumphs aboard her boat, MacArthur swiftly entered that pantheon of sportsmen and women whose emotional life we came to share over and above their achievements in their chosen field. We strove against the elements with her, we suffered with her when disaster loomed--and, finally, we could all take vicarious pleasure in her ultimate triumph.

This autobiography proves to have been more than worth the wait. The insights we are granted here into just what MacArthur went through genuinely tug at the heart--and never in any sentimental or manipulative way. Her very air of "ordinariness" (no film-star looks, no breast-beating egomania as in all too many sports personalities) was refreshing, but it's that monumental endurance and skill she demonstrated on her epic voyage that commands our admiration. The earlier sections of the book, detailing her childhood in Derbyshire (quite some distance from the sea) may have us impatient for her great ocean adventure, but they're skilfully and affectingly written. And when she begins her preparations for the Vendée Globe, we take a deep breath, knowing that we'll experience all the arduous adventure and danger that is facing her.

Some may argue that autobiographies are being written by younger and younger authors, with their lives still ahead of them. But surely (in this case) the timing is perfect. --Barry Forshaw

The Beckoning Silence
Joe Simpson


Amazon.co.uk Review
In The Beckoning Silence, climber Joe Simpson, author of the bestselling Touching the Void, recounts how his mountain dreams became shadowed by the deaths of friends and heroes, and hampered by the weight of probability that his own life would end in the same way. The result is a valedictory attempt on the North Face of the Eiger, a summation of his lifelong enchantment with climbing, and the parlaying of rock-solid risk with intangible rewards. It was a final adventure that would itself be touched by tragedy.

Simpson has established himself as the leading mountaineering writer of his time, and The Beckoning Silence is a bold reassertion of that status. Always strong on the personal meaning of the challenge, here he is superb on the bubbling fear that forms such a critical element of the climber's kit; the minutiae of circumstance that seemingly separate the survivors and the dead; and the crisis that envelopes a climbing partnership on the mountainside, at the instant extreme pressure disturbs the balance of shared ambition and ability.