Sometimes a re-read is as disapointing as the first


I often re-read books. Those I have really enjoyed the first time around, also those which are chosen in the book groups I belong to down here in the real world:)

I don’t mind as I have found that sometimes this second reading can add a whole new layer of enjoyment.  Small nuances missed the first time become apparent, maybe my mood/circumstances are different.

I have read A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreeve before, I had hoped a second reading after some years would improve my opinion. Alas it was not to be.

Although the subject of this offering from Anita Shreeve is heavy I thought her handling of it a trifle lightweight. I normally enjoy Shreeve’s writing but although I didn’t dislike this, I was disappointed in it.

The story is set in Kenya in the 1970s and concerns three expat couples who decide, over too many drinks, they will climb Mount Kenya. Two couples are expert climbers and the other, new to the country, will be the beginners.

There are brilliant chapters of the climb itself, as they trudge up the mountain. Not just of the change in scenery as they climb ever higher, but of the change in altitude which has varying degrees of impact on each individual. The pain and the minor triumphs.

However, there is tension between the characters from the start and it is a tension which increases with every step bringing us ever closer to the impending disaster. An accident occurs and whose is the blame? The rest of the book is a study in the after effects on relationships of this disaster. On the strength or truth of friendship and love.

The plot aside, Anita Shreeve does give some good descriptions of what life is like during the 1970s for the ordinary citizen, the ex colonial residents,the professionals and the poor of the country. The inequalities and injustice of day to day living. From this point of view I enjoyed the read. The reader can gather much detail which feels well researched and I would maybe have enjoyed the book more if this aspect had been the story rather than the plot which I found weak.

The accident just didn’t seem to have any real justification, not enough explained reasons for why events led to it. As I said a trifle lightweight. The character’s just didn’t seem to step up to the mark and I was left feeling they were a little one dimensional and cliched. A very frustrating read as the background was so good but the plot disappointed, however I still like her writing and will continue reading her books.


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