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Running Water

A. E. W. Mason

Book Overview: 

Running Water is a tale of romantic adventure. Though much of the story takes place in England, the real setting here is in the high Alps, in the range of Mont Blanc near Chamonix and Courmayeur. Here it is that Captain Hilary Chayne arrives, having spent the prior four years of his army service on the shores of the Red Sea, dreaming all the time of his return to the Alps, to the world of rock, ice, and snow, to mountaineering with all its challenges and joys, and to its comradeship. And here it is too that he meets the young and beautiful Sylvia Thesiger, a girl already in love with the high mountains, and seeking in them an escape, as far as possible, from her unpleasant and domineering mother.
Is it necessary to add that disappointments. problems, misunderstandings, and outright villainies, ensue to complicate the course of true love? After the twists and turns of novel's English midsection, the setting shifts back to the high Alps, and the final, climactic scene is played out on the heights of the Italian face of the Mont Blanc. This is the Brenva -- where thousands of feet of rock and glacier sweep steeply up to reach the highest point in western Europe. It is an Alpine route that today, over century later, even experienced climbers still find a challenge.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .It did not look very secure. So I put out my hand and just touched it—quite, quite gently. But it was so exactly balanced that the least little vibration overset it, and I saw it begin to move, very slowly, as if it meant no harm whatever. But it was moving, nevertheless, toward me. My chest was on a level with the top of the cleft, so that I had a good view of the boulder. I couldn't do anything at all. It was much too heavy and big for my arms to stop and I couldn't move, of course, since I was standing on Jack Lattery's shoulders. There did not seem very much chance, with nothing below us except two thousand feet of vacancy. But there was just at my side a little bit of a crack in the edge of the cleft, and there was just a chance that the rock might shoot out down that cleft past me. I remember standing and watching the thing sliding down, not in a rush at all, but very smoothly, almost in a friendly sort of way, and I wondered how long it would be before it rea. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Here is a book that I likely would not have read if I had to READ it. I say that because much of the beginning is narrative about the Alps, mountaineering, particular passes, and the technicalities of climbing. But, because of my half-hour commute each day I had recorded Running Water and listene...more

First published in 1906, this book find much of its imagery in the Alps and those who climbed them during the 1800s. At once a love story, an adventure, and a philosophical look at the mountains which had their own law: "What you know, that you must do, if by doing it you can save a life." The en...more