We've talked before about 'companion reading', books which complement one another in having themes or settings in common (there are examples here and here); having just read and greatly enjoyed Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind: a History of a Fascination, I'd offer Susanna Jones' unsettling psychological thriller When Nights Were Cold as a suitable companion piece. Each book has at its core the pull of the mountains, but here the draw of the Alps for the young Edwardian women who attempt to scale the Matterhorn stems from ideals of emancipation and self-actualization.
Growing up in London's Dulwich, Grace Farringdon avidly follows reports of the polar expeditions of Scott and Shackleton and longs to be an adventurer herself. But her family stifles talent and thwarts ambition, her parents intent on keeping Grace and her sister Catherine virtually sequestered from the outside world with only domestic pursuits to concern them. Grace, however, manages to get away to college, and at this all-female establishment she makes friends with three fellow students, Locke, Hooper and Parr. The four form an Antarctic Exploration Society to study expeditions and go walking and climbing in Wales and the Lake District, to emulate as far as possible their heroes' exploits. But when the more experienced Parr takes the group to the Alps, they experience what an ascent of that nature really means and come to understand what it can lead to or demand from a person.
Farringdon's aim in climbing is to reach her "own Pole", prove herself in a taxing environment. But as she looks back from a distance of some years to the dramatic events of the 1910s, it is soon apparent that she is not what she seems, that she may be an unreliable narrator, increasingly out of kilter with herself and others, a person in whom repression seems to have wrought deep flaws. Her confessional account of what happened all those years before is gripping and chilling in equal measure. Atmospheric and intense, this is a beautifully balanced story of obsession.