I like mountains and always feel healthier when I’m in the Alps but I have to admit that one mountain seems much like another to me.
We took the train to the summit of the Jungfrau in 2006 and felt giddy up at the top and I’ve been to the museum in Zermatt where I learned about the tragic fate that overtook some of the party during the first successful attempt to climb the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper. That was in 1865 but did you know that almost thirty years earlier, in 1836, a woman (Henriette d’Angeville) successfully climbed Mont Blanc? She was the first to do so and very intrepid she must have been to go mountaineering in a bonnet and full skirt plus petticoats. I’ve no way of comparing mountain ascents but it sounds pretty impressive to me!
(I don’t have a photo of Mont Blanc but on the grounds that a picture of any mountain is better than none, this is the Gornergrat glacier looking towards the Matterhorn: we were there in June 2009 and it was snowing!
I certainly hadn’t heard of Henriette d’Angeville until I came across Chasing Angels by Sally Zigmond and it’s a fascinating, fictionalised story of determination and sheer bloody-mindedness!
Sally Zigmond’s sweeping historical novel, Hope against Hope, and her short stories are clever, thoughtful and literary, all qualities to be found in her novella, Chasing Angels, but what I hadn’t really expected – I don’t know why! – was the delightful, earthy humour! With a sure, delicate touch the author brings us Henriette, quirky, difficult – and determined to reach her goal, and her companion, Jeannette, even more stubborn, jealous of the angel Henriette is chasing, jealous of everyone.
This may be a short book but what Sally Zigmond has written is a big story and Henriette d’Angeville is fortunate to be introduced to modern readers by such an accomplished writer.
Ebook only published by Endeavour Media – and thoroughly recommended