Thursday, July 04, 2019

43. The Rose of Tibet by Lionel Davidson

This is the second book by Lionel Davidson I have found (picked it up in Amsterdam) and is his second book and much earlier than Kolmynsky Heights.  It's the story of a young man who sneaks into Tibet in 1950 in search of his brother who somehow got separated from a film crew.  Post-WWII Northern India, Tibet and western China is an interesting and complex time and this is a great view of it on the ground (and mostly from an ignorant outsider).  Compared to Kolmynsky Heights, though quite adventurous and perhaps a bit over the top, I found The Rose of Tibet to be much more grounded and realistic (though similarly to Kolmynsky Heights the ability to survive extreme cold seems quite fantastical).  I am much more convinced of Davidson's reputation now. 

I think part of his appreciation, at least for the The Rose of Tibet, is that this is a true adventure book, along the lines of John Buchan (there is even a long hiding out in a hole sequence), but couched in more modern terms and context.  There is gruelling mountain travel, which I usually find hard to connect to, but here you really feel the pain and struggle.  There is some great sneaking around and intrigue and weird characters.  And there is some pretty hardcore action, including a gruesome battle between starving man and starving bear.  The entire book is framed as if Lionel Davidson is an editor who stumbles upon this true story but struggles to corroborate it (as the protagonist cannot be found) and so publishes it as fiction.  This left the ending feeling a bit deflated, but the adventure along the way is so much fun that it is excused.

Great book.  Try and find it.

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