The Cartographer of No Man's Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home.
In the tradition of Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife and Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn, P. S. Duffy's astonishing debut showcases a rare and instinctive talent emerging in midlife. Her novel leaps across the Atlantic, between a father at war and a son coming of age at home without him.
When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into the visceral shock of battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief. With the intimacy of The Song of Achilles and the epic scope of The Invisible Bridge, The Cartographer of No Man's Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home.
February 1st, 1917
Western Front, France
Angus MacGrath unbuttoned his greatcoat and leaned back against the one tree left on the bank of a river he did not know. Not far downstream, a private, standing waist-deep in the river, squeezed a bar of soap between his hands. It shot upward, and four or five other soldiers lunged for it, splashing and falling over themselves. Their uniforms, boots, and rifles lay in a heap by a jagged row of blackened tree stumps. Under a weak early morning sun, bands of mist rose from the cold river, occasionally engulfing the soldiers so that they took on a dream-like quality of white arms and torsos appearing and disappearing.
Above the river on a low stone bridge sat the engine of the troop train where, a day into their journey, it had lurched to a stop, unable or unwilling to carry on. Sunk between endless flat fields, the tracks ran east-northeast toward the Front. Angus flipped open his old pocket compass for confirmation, for ...
The various themes are so deftly interwoven that one is barely aware of how dense the plot is until one steps away from the book and looks back at the reading experience in wonder. Duffy's gorgeous prose, affecting characters and multifaceted plot are sure to win her many fans with this, her debut effort, and aficionados of WWI literature will definitely want to put this one on their lists.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (831 words).
In her introduction to The Cartographer of No Man's Land, P.S. Duffy states that the WWI Battle of Vimy Ridge is "as iconic to Canadians as Bunker Hill is to Americans."
The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was formed in 1914 to provide support to the British battling overseas. 619,363 Canadians enlisted, of whom 60,661 – nearly 10% - were killed or wounded. The CEF was instrumental in many important actions, including The Battle of Ypres (1915), The Battle of the Somme (July – November, 1916), and Passchendaele (November 1917). The group was very well-regarded, and members of the CEF were considered among the fiercest fighters.
Vimy Ridge is a 4.3 mile long escarpment about 5 miles northeast of the French town of ...
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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