28.2.14

THE CARTOGRAPHER OF NO MAN'S LAND, by P. S. Duffy

This is a debut novel, so far above the usual debut novel it's hard to believe this isn't the seasoned work of a brilliant author at the top of her game. If you are able to read yet another front-line World War One story, or are new to depictions of the impossible horror of trench warfare, then this is the novel you must read. The place is terrible, but in the hands of this marvelous author the characters and their experiences are transcendant. Click to read more...but (as always) no spoilers...

Handsome, lighthearted, Nova Scotian Ebben Hant enlists to fight the Hun in France, his patriotic duty as a loyal Englishman. Once at the front, he vanishes. His cousin and best friend Angus MacGrath,  leaves family and home to find him; Angus has been promised a job as cartographer, out of the carnage at the front. But the job does not materialize and the one-time divinity student is whisked off to the front, to the infamous Arras sector.
The predictable carnage of warfare ensues, interspersed with chapters focused on Nova Scotia, where Angus's young son, Simon Peter, must navigate being the man of the house amidst the home-front turmoil of ethnic hatred and community blindness.
At no time in our violent history was the complete insanity of war better illustrated than by World War One's trench warfare. A War of Attrition, it was called, and if you have any feel for the endless grief brought on by war, this book will add to it. But it is so beautifully written, without a false step in either history or character or emotion, that you will read the final page wishing the author is at this very minute writing a sequel. It is, of course, a 5. My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You is another novel written about this same time, highly recommended, a 5, reviewed in a separate post.
www.psduffy.com