A Line Above The Sky by Helen Mort : Book Review
Prior to reading A Line Above The Sky I listened to Helen give a talk at Timber Festival in early July 2022. Helen read extracts from some of her poetry collections, as well as sections from A Line Above The Sky. I immediately got the sense that this was no straightforward climbing tale. Helen writes in a sensory poetic style, drawing on sound, smell, touch, light, environments, emotions and feelings to convey what it means to climb, be present in different spaces and move through the world as a woman. Then, imagine this style being used to tell multiple stories that overlap and then diverge. Helen speaks about growing up in South Yorkshire. The Peak District has always been her playground, as a child and as an adult. Helen tells the tale of how her relationship with her body has changed over time, the relationship between her body and climbing, and how the interplay between her body, nature and climbing has been altered by becoming a mother to her son, Alfie.
Helen weaves these discussions with the story of professional mountaineer Alison Hargreaves and Alison’s son Tom Ballard. Helen describes the connection she feels to Alison, as both a climber and a mother. Spending time at the crags where Alison climbed and reflecting on her own experience of redefining her relationship with climbing and the outdoors, under the new influence of her child. A Line Above the Sky conveys the complexity of motherhood through Helen’s exploration of the outdoors, crags and mountains, family, relationships and the embodied experience of climbing. You don’t need to be a climber to enjoy A Line Above The Sky, as Helen’s rich and textured descriptions of the mountains, the Peak District and nature are captivating.
On Sunday 20th November 2022, I interviewed Helen Mort and Anna Fleming on stage at Kendal Mountain Book Festival as part of our ongoing relationship with KMF.
By Emily Ankers (she/her)
Co-Founder and Editor