Lead Review

  • Book: A Hundred Million Years and a Day
  • Location: The Dolomites
  • Author: Jean-Baptiste Andrea

Review Author: tripfiction

Location

Content

It’s the mid 1950s and Stan, a paleontologist, has gathered together a team. He has heard tell of the remains of a dinosaur, a dragon, secreted in a cave high up on a glacier. It is merely a rumour, but he has a feeling that there is truth in the story. He is not really a man cut out for the mountains, he suffers from vertigo, but stoically he tries to overcome his affliction, as Gio, their guide, escorts them up a Via Ferrata (a climbing route that employs steel cables, rungs or ladders, fixed to the rock to which the climbers affix a harness with two leashes, which allows the climbers to secure themselves to the metal fixture and limit any fall). It is tough terrain and demands everything of the climbers).

Flashbacks to his childhood underline the determination he has had to build up in his life. His mother was not present and his father was a bully and harmed his son in a variety of attacking ways. Driven to almost killing his father, Stan left for Paris where he now works at a university, and his intellectual research is, in part, a redemptive way of distancing from the sad childhood experiences. He is now a man with a dream and a man on a mission.

It is later Summer up on the mountain and the party ploughs on, ever upwards, continuing into August, searching for the cave. As August becomes September the weather starts to close in. They have found nothing, their resources are dwindling, their tempers fraying.

This is a story of man versus the elements, battling to survive in the most demanding terrain that is millions of years old. The members of this small group have to co-exist and get through their challenge. The description of the mountain environment is beautifully rendered, majestic, full of beauty and ultimately an overarching power that is beyond mere mortals. As they climb, their minds have to move away from ground level norms and adjust to rarified air. This adds an almost ethereal quality to the lyrical writing (beautifully translated by Sam Taylor). A wonderfully told tale over c.170 pages.

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