Summary and book reviews of A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart

A Map of Glass

by Jane Urquhart

A Map of Glass
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 375 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 375 pages

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Book Summary

Jerome, a young artist on a remote island retreat, discovers the body of an old man, Andrew Woodman, frozen in the ice. One year after the body is discovered, Sylvia Bradley – a withdrawn, sheltered woman whose secret affair with Andrew changed her world forever – decides to learn more about her lover’s mysterious disappearance. She flees to the overwhelming, unfamiliar city of Toronto on a quest to find Jerome. Once she does, they work together to uncover both the secrets of their own pasts and the story of Andrew’s ancestors.

The eagerly anticipated new novel from the best-selling Canadian author of The Stone Carvers and The Underpainter.

Andrew Woodman stumbles through a snowstorm, slowly losing his strength, his language, and his memories of the once-familiar island landscape around him. When Jerome, a young artist on a remote island retreat, discovers the old man’s body frozen in the ice later that winter, the rich narrative tapestry of A Map of Glass begins.

One year after Andrew’s body is discovered, Sylvia Bradley – a withdrawn, sheltered woman whose secret affair with Andrew changed her world forever – decides to learn more about her lover’s mysterious disappearance. She flees to the overwhelming, unfamiliar city of Toronto on a quest to find Jerome. Once she does, they work together to uncover both the secrets of their own pasts and the breathtaking story of Andrew’s ancestors.

With her celebrated lyrical prose and haunting imagery, Urquhart’s A Map of Glass is a skillful exploration of love, loss, and the transitory nature of place.

He is an older man walking in winter. And he knows this. There is white everywhere and a peculiar, almost acidic smell that those who have passed through childhood in a northern country associate with new, freshly fallen snow. He recognizes the smell but cannot bring to mind the word acidic. Snow, walking, and winter are the best he can come up with – these few words – and then the word older, which is associated with effort. Effort is what he is making; the effort to place one foot in front of the other, the effort required to keep moving, to keep moving toward the island.

It might have been more than an hour ago that he remembered, and then forgot, the word island. But even now, even though the word for island has gone, he believes he is walking toward a known place. He has a map of the shoreline in his brain; its docks and rundown wooden buildings, a few trees grown in the last century. Does he have the word for trees? Sometimes yes, but mostly no. He is ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Jane Urquhart doesn't title individual chapters, instead she divides her novel into three large sections: "The Revelations"; "The Bog Commissioners"; "A Map of Glass". Look at each of these sections and discuss why it is given that particular title. The name of the second section, "The Bog Commissioners," is at first mysterious because Joseph Woodman only stayed in Ireland as a bog commissioner for less than half a year. But something ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Urquhart continues her interest in unconventional art forms, a theme that has run through two of her previous novels, The Stone Carvers and The Underpainter, with a story that rewards the patient reader.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Her story flies in too many directions, and is hamstrung by appallingly portentous, theme-driven dialogue. At her best, this writer commands an impressive range of varied literary skills. But here, simpler would have been better.

Library Journal

The book starts slowly and quietly but rewards patient reading; at play here are big themes about the impermanence of everything: relationships, memory, possessions, civilizations, and even the landscape.

Quill & Quire

A serious, mature novel abundantly displaying the skill Urquhart has built up over decades in her poetry and prose.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Urquhart's passion for the past is at full poetic play in this intricate story of love, loss and memory.

Winnepeg Free Press

She displays a masterful command of language and a grasp of the complexities that form the tapestry of each person.

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Beyond the Book

Jane Urquhart was born in the small northern Ontario mining community of Little Long Lac and spent her later childhood and adolescence in Toronto.

She has published three books of poetry (I'm Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace, False Shuffles, and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan), six novels (The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, Away, The Underpainter, The Stonecarvers and A May of Glass), and a collection of short fiction (Storm Glass) as well as numerous articles and reviews.

Her books have been published in many countries, including Holland, France, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, Australia, and The United States, and have been translated into ...

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