Piers Paul Read.
Pan. Books Ltd.
No. of Pages
318, there are photographs and maps with multiple acknowledgements
The story takes place in 1972, in South America. A group of Uruguayan (rugby players and their families) are on their way to Chile on a chartered flight. Their plane crashes in the Andes due to a Pilot error. They survive there for almost ten weeks. The people are just normal people, mainly employed in the agricultural business and their families. They are all churchgoing Christian's.
It is very hard to define a main character. I can choose between the people that occur most often in the book or the people most important to the group. In between are two men Roberto Canessa and Ferrando Parrado. I've chosen to discuss them.
Ferrando Parrado was one of the members of the rugby team of the Old Christian's College; a college set up by Irish Missionaries. He used to be a playboy like man who liked fast cars, going out and girls. After the crash he changes, or appears to change. From a person who seems to care about materialistic things he becomes one of the people who are most determined to survive. After several weeks of no rescue, people from the 17 survivors are selected to be expeditionaries to go in search of help. Ferrando Parrado becomes one of them and when they are underway he is most determined and energetic. Also beforehand the expeditionaries were given an elite status so that they wouldn't to do any work and could save their strength; Nando does his chores anyway. After they are rescued, the other survivors all have a very spiritual feeling and feel close to god, Nando however goes back to his former way of living, not that the experience meant any less to him. Roberto Canessa also a member of the rugby team, was also a medical student, unfortunately for the survivors he was only a first year student, limiting his knowledge of medicine a great deal in the ten weeks. The survivors still promoted him to a doctor. Back in normal life Canessa was studying and had a fiancé, which he misses a great deal in the ten weeks. While surviving Canessa was quite upstrung, aggressive and irritated very quickly and it is only with the intervention of others that he could be calmed down. Canessa, does become the friend of Nando Parrado, they are both in the expeditionary team. Canessa greatly abuses his elite position. When they are underway on the expedition he always fall behind on Nando showing far less determination. It is only with the help of his friend that he makes it eventually.
Plot and Structure
The book starts with an introduction of all people on the plane and how their trip became to happen. Then the flight is described and the crash. The fuselage and tail are separated, only some in the fuselage survive. Of the 40 people in the plane only half survives, of which some were badly injured or even stuck between bent seats. They have a very limited food supply, but they believe to be on the outskirts of the Andes, because the pilot reported he was making his descent to Santiago airport and hope to be rescued soon. When the families of the victims hear the plane never arrived in Chile they ask for a search and rescue operation, which is carried out very minimally. Later, when the survivors realise that they aren't going to be rescued soon, hope falls and they have to find ways to survive. Their food supply is nearly depleted, there is no living organism anywhere around them, only massive mountains. Water is not a problem, they melt snow in the sun. Eventually they realise that the only food sources they have are the bodies of the casualties. They are forced to eat their flesh, however revolting it is to all of them, some even refuse to do so and grow weak. Many of the injured die. An avalanche that covers the plane kills many more. Eventually after several short expeditions a large expedition is planned which should follow a river. It fails, but they do find the tail and the on-board radio. They hear that the search for them was cancelled. A new expedition going straight up a mountain finally reaches civilisation after ten weeks. The survivors are rejoined with their families.
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