Published by W. W. Norton & Company on 10/29/2013
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Angus MacGrath leaves his small fishing village in Nova Scotia to enlist in World War I, despite the pacifist teachings of his father. His best friend and brother-in-law, Ebbin, has gone missing on the front and Angus hopes to find him by being assigned to cartography, due to his navigation skills, but instead he is thrown into the belly of the war. Told from both the perspective of Angus and his son Simon, living at home in Nova Scotia, The Cartographer of No Man’s Land examines the real impact of war on the lives of everyone involved.
I’ve been looking forward to The Cartographer of No Man’s Land all year. With a cross-continent tale from World War I, a stunning cover and rave early reviews, all my lights were flashing. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me…and I’m still trying to piece together why.
Writing about books that end up firmly in the “okay” camp is pretty difficult. While Duffy’s novel did’t live up to my expectations, it certainly wasn’t poorly written or horribly plotted. I think the book I imagined reading had much less war action and centered instead on the relationships between the characters. As The Cartographer of No Man’s Land progressed, the stories of the boots on the ground lessened, but I already felt very disconnected and, honestly, ready for the novel to end.
However, for those considering picking up the book, I would still do so. The GoodReads reviews are very good and all of the reviewers for Red Letter Reads gave it an “A”, which very rarely happens. I think I’m going to chalk this up to the ol’ expectations vs. reality in my case.
Are there books you imagined would be completely different before picking them up and reading?