I came across a copy of Robert Twigger’s White Mountain: Real and Imagined Journeys in the Himalayas whilst browsing for books to take on holiday. I hadn’t heard of it before, but was very much intrigued by the title and blurb. I love travelogues and travel literature, and imagined that this would be a mixture of the two. Its blurb says: ‘These mountains, home to Buddhists, Bonpas, Jains, Muslims, Hindus, Shamans and animals, to name only a few, are a place of pilgrimage and dreams, revelation and war, massacre and invasion, but also peace and unutterable calm.’
In White Mountain, Twigger professes that he wishes to look at and explore the links between real and imagined journeys over the vast range of the Himalayas. His father was born there, and he therefore feels a connection, which pushes him toward exploring the mountains himself. In his own trips to the region, he ‘encounters incredible stories from a unique cast of mountaineers and mystics, pundits and prophets. The result is a sweeping, enthralling and surprising journey through the history of the world’s greatest mountain range.’
White Mountain did not live up to my expectations. Rather than the geographical biography which I was expecting, I was met with an incredibly imbalanced range of chapters, some of which are so short as to say barely anything, and others which are so long that they ramble and meander around points which could be interesting, had they been focused upon. The historical detail was fascinating; the religious detail was rather overblown, and saturated the whole. The nods to science are rendered intelligently.
However, Twigger has an odd habit of repeating himself throughout, and giving the same details over and over again. Much of White Mountain, indeed, is about Twigger himself; he comes across as rather self-righteous, and often overshadows the fascinating stories of explorers in the region with his own experiences. Quotes from others have been included, but these are often left alone, and not analysed in any way.
Upon finishing White Mountain, I awarded it three stars, but after mulling my decision over, I have decided to downgrade it to two. The book had such a lot of potential which simply has not been reached, and the way in which it has been structured is jarring, and lacks balance. Photographs have been randomly placed throughout; they have little bearing for the most part about what has been written, and serve to interrupt the narrative. I would, for all of these reasons, steer clear of Twigger’s books in future.