My book review of 'To the Greatest Heights' by Vanessa O'Brien

To the Greatest Heights

by Vanessa O'Brien
To the Greatest Heights
by Vanessa O'Brien

Has a friend ever suggested you should climb Mount Everest?!

Vanessa O'Brien was 46 and had recently been made redundant. She had moved to Hong Kong because of her husband's job, and she needed a goal, a purpose, a challenge.

Her friend, with tequila in hand, mentioned going up a mountain and thus ignited an obsession.

To many (most?) of us, a conversation in a bar about bucket lists wouldn't lead anywhere, particularly if we had no experience of mountains, climbing or endurance. But Vanessa O'Brien is clearly a single-minded, driven and determined individual (with a supportive husband and a seemingly limitless source of funds).

Even for this reader who has no interest in mountains, climbing or the cold, it was a gripping read.

O'Brien's relentless pursuit of her goals, and her very objective and pragmatic approach to life, is intriguing, though sometimes rather puzzling.

Her story touches on an unconventional, dysfunctional family background with memories and experiences she has to overcome as she pushes herself to the limits emotionally, mentally and physically.

There seemed little real introspection or self-discovery as she seemed solely focused on the task in hand. And I found there was greater attention to the gruelling and competitive aspects of every climb than enjoying the beauty and magnificence of the scenery, or the camaraderie and teamwork involved.

It was fascinating, though, to see how much we are all capable of achieving, withstanding and overcoming.

The book was a real page-turner. Her story was inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking and it's stayed with me, long after finishing reading her story.

Review date: March 2021
Publication date: 30th March 2021