At 40,000-and-a-half-feet, Rum Doodle is the highest peak in the world and a team of experienced climbers is assembled at the request of Sir Hugeley Havering with the aim of reaching the summit. The story of their expedition, told by the team’s leader, is what forms the basis of the book.
As you can tell, this is a parody, mocking the derring-do and heroic sacrifice journaled in many expedition diaries, especially in the early part of the twentieth century.
The book apparently took inspiration from a real-life account called The Ascent of Nanda Devi by Bill Tilman. Rum Doodle isn’t looking so ridiculous a name when you know that.
Populated by a fantastic cast, who are at once distilled to a single trait — the route finder who is perpetually lost, the physician who is always ill — and then expanded with strange back stories about their fiances, or lack of them.
It’s not a long book, but it’s also a bit of a one trick pony and, at times, it feels like a sketch that has been stretched too far. Various obstacles and sub-plots are thrown in to try and bolster the basic premise.
The foreword by Bill Bryson is practically worth the price of admission. Terry Wale does a fine job reading it. The only odd thing is the producer didn’t bother to remove the references to ‘end of CD x’ from the MP3 version, where they have no meaning.
I stumbled across this in my local library, quite by accident, having never heard of it before. I agree with Bryson — it deserves a wider audience.
If you decide to read it I’m sure that you will agree that “team spirit remains first-rate and the porters are splendid.”