Getting to know our Sir Ed

March 7, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary: An Extraordinary Life, by Alexa Johnston (Penguin NZ, RRP $29.95):

There’s probably not a lot you can say about Sir Edmund Hillary that we don’t already know.

Sir Ed is the stuff of legend: he  scaled the world’s highest peak then proudly proclaimed to the world that he’d “knocked the bastard off” and cranked up his trusty tractor for a wee trip to the South Pole.

There was, of course, much more to our Sir Ed than just mountains and snow — not that those things aren’t in themselves truly stunning achievements.

However, Sir Ed was an incredibly humble but capable man.

He took the fame he claimed with his successful attempt on Everest and used it to improve the lot of the Sherpa people, who he admired hugely.

He also saw more than his fair share of tragedy in his own life, with the deaths of his first wife and daughter in a plane crash in Kathmandu.

This book offers up a candid and at times delightful look at a man who is probably always going to be remembered as one of New Zealand’s most admired citizens.

The author takes the reader beyond Sir Ed the mountaineer and adventurer and shows us glimpses of Sir Ed, the family man, friend and good Kiwi bloke.

This is one of the best biographies I’ve read.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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