Breaking fresh ground, this new and important biography of Sir Edmund Hillary stands apart from previous accounts of this truly great New Zealander. The author, Michael Gill, was a close friend of Edmund Hillary’s for nearly 50 years, accompanying him on many expeditions, and becoming heavily involved in his Himalayan aid work. He was also granted access by Sir Edmund’s children to a large archive of private papers and photos that were deposited in the Auckland Museum after his death.
Building on this unpublished material, as well as his extensive personal experience, Michael Gill has written an insightful and illuminating biography. He describes the uncertainties of the first 33 years of Edmund Hillary’s life, as well as the background to the first ascent of Mt Everest, a feat that brought him instant worldwide fame. In addition, this biography reveals the pivotal and loving relationship he had with his wife Louise, in part through their touching letters to each other. Her importance to him during their 22 years of marriage only underlines the horror of her death, along with that of their youngest daughter, in a plane crash in 1975. Edmund Hillary eventually pulled out of his subsequent depression to continue his life’s work building schools and hospitals in the Himalayas.
Affectionate, but scrupulously fair, Michael Gill has gone further than anyone before to reveal the humanity of this remarkable man. Edmund Hillary’s life was shaped by both triumph and tragedy, and while he became famous through his mountaineering achievements, it was his humility and affection for the people of Nepal that became an equal part of his enduring legacy.