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The Cartographer of No Man's Land: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; First Edition edition (October 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871403765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871403766
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Angus MacGrath is a ship’s captain in Nova Scotia, contending with his pacifist father and changes in the shipping industry in the middle years of WWI. When his brother-in-law, Ebbin, goes missing in France, he enlists in the Allied forces to try to find him. Expecting to serve from the safety of a London cartography division, he finds himself instead as an officer on the front lines, facing mustard gas, watching his men die for paltry gains of German territory, and battling his own despair. Back in Nova Scotia, his wife begins modernizing the family business, and his son is drawn into a dispute with his neighbors when he defends the local German schoolteacher. Both settings come to life thanks to Duffy’s full realization—each character, however minor, is a distinct personality; the action is grounded in closely observed details of fishing life and trench warfare; and her patience in developing the cast of characters makes for an unusually rich novel. In addition, the world of shipping and the uncertainty of the uncharted front line provide poignant metaphors for the characters’ navigation of conflict, loss, and change, as well as their journey back to each other—and to themselves. --Lynn Weber

Review

“[P.S Duffy’s] first novel is an addition to the literary canon of World War I—and it’s an addition of the very best kind. Duffy…is a mature writer who understands the nuances of human behavior, as well as the marks left on society by the larger strokes of history. In The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, she weaves these complex strands into a compelling story. Turning the final page, I wanted to go back to the beginning, if only to contemplate a writer who has such a broad and compassionate understanding of the human condition.” (Frances Itani - The Washington Post)

“Debut author P.S. Duffy captures the brutal intensity of the war in her delicate, atmospheric prose (star shells light the sky 'with a cascading trail of sparks'), but it's the parallel story of how Hettie and Angus's 14-year-old son survive in his absence—while protecting an innocent German school teacher—that keeps you riveted. Be it at home in the village or deep in a battle, 'Life isn't without much risk,' Angus comes to realize, as does his family. But it's our response to those risks that draws the map of our character.” (O Magazine)

“Brilliant. The description of front line action in the trenches is impressively real, and the ending blessedly free from sentimentality. Altogether a remarkable debut.” (Simon Mawer, author of Trapeze and The Glass Room)

“Never once while reading The Cartographer of No Man’s Land did I doubt Duffy’s authority. From the docks of Snag Harbor to the trenches of WWI France, she moves the story between continents and I was all too eager to follow. To call this novel a coming-of-age story is not nearly enough; every character in this beautiful novel—young or old—is faced with a rapidly changing world and the task of finding firm-footing within it. Never sentimental, Duffy knows where to find the humanity at the heart of even the smallest gestures. By the end I was so immersed in this story that I swear I could hear water lapping the pilings.” (Mary Beth Keane, author of Fever)

The Cartographer of No Man's Land is less of a book about maps and World War I than it is about boys becoming men, men discovering who they are, and the connections between fathers and sons. The book travels from the mud and blood of the front to a fishing village in Nova Scotia, all the while showing how the shifting landscape of war can both divide a family and bring it together. P.S. Duffy spent many years writing this remarkable debut; The Cartographer of No Man's Land was worth the wait.” (Alexi Zentner, author of Touch)

“Cutting deftly between a father at war and a son at home, The Cartographer of No Man's Land is a graceful, dignified look at all the ways in which war is endured: from the stories people tell to keep themselves alive at the front, to the fault lines that threaten the home-front bond. This is a moving and memorable debut.” (Jessica Francis Kane, author of This Close)

“A haunting meditation on family, friendship, and sacrifice, The Cartographer of No Man's Land charts a deeply felt course from the Nova Scotia coastline to the trenches of Europe, bridging the distance between past and present, duty and honor, obligation and love. A powerful debut.” (Amy Brill, author of The Movement of Stars)

“Physical and emotional geography are beautifully rendered, and Duffy’s vivid descriptions illuminate war’s transformative effect in fresh ways. Well-nuanced characters and carefully choreographed (but still surprising) situations make this a strong debut.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[T]hanks to Duffy’s full realization—each character, however minor, is a distinct personality; the action is grounded in closely observed details of fishing life and trench warfare; and her patience in developing the cast of characters makes for an unusually rich novel. In addition, the world of shipping and the uncertainty of the uncharted front line provide poignant metaphors for the characters’ navigation of conflict, loss, and change, as well as their journey back to each other—and to themselves.” (Booklist, Starred Review)

“Duffy’s astounding first novel depicts terrifyingly real battle scenes, rich in subtle details, displaying the intimacies shared among soldiers and the memories that haunt them. VERDICT… Essential reading for historical fiction lovers and war story fans alike; very highly recommended.” (Library Journal, starred review)

“Duffy’s well-researched account of bloody 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge should satisfy even the most die-hard of WWI buffs.” (New York Post)

“A vivid debut novel about war, families and friendship in a Nova Scotia fishing village…a deep and vivid exploration of the human heart and the high seas, reminiscent of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

More About the Author

P.S. Duffy lives in Rochester, MN. She was born in mainland China to American parents who were part of the Anglican mission there, returning to Massachusetts in 1950. She spent 35 summers sailing in Nova Scotia, where her family roots go back to 1754. She has a degree in history from Concordia University in Montreal and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Following a 25 year career in neurologically based communication disorders, she now balances writing in the neurosciences for Mayo Clinic with creative writing and is the author of flash fiction, creative non-fiction and a graduate textbook on right brain damage. The Cartographer of No Man's Land (W.W. Norton), is her first novel. www.psduffy.com

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 39 customer reviews
I would recommend to anyone to enjoys historical fiction, and possibly even to those who don't.
Natasha Schmidt
The story is brimming full of notable characters; their personalities realistic, and complex as they shift with the tide of war.
Believer
Beautifully written with a keen feeling for life's lyricism in the midst of the harshest realities.
Helen Breen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Believer on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
"The Cartographer of No Man's Land" is a poignant and chilling story set in 1916 when the horrors of the first world war ravaged Europe. In Nova Scotia far from the battlefield, Angus MacGrath and his wife Hettie learn that her impulsive and inconsiderate brother Ebbin is missing in action. Torn by his wife's despair and the mystery of his friend's disappearance, Angus enlists. His plan is to develop his skill in London as a cartographer while searching for the elusive Ebbin. What he finds instead is that he's being shipped to the Frontlines. This is a story that juxtaposes a horrific war with its trenches , barbed wire and ravaged tracts of land separating the combatants against the beauty of the sea around peaceful Snag Harbour with its idealistic patriotic spirit.

This well-researched historically - based fictional novel is written with an emotional intensity that grips the reader from the first page to the last. With dramatic intensity it portrays the inner struggle of men sworn to fight, and dying in renowned battles like Vimy Ridge and Passachendale. The story is brimming full of notable characters; their personalities realistic, and complex as they shift with the tide of war. Angus MacGrath, the sensitive,creative artist is already struggling with his passion for art and his responsibility to earn a living at sea. Troubled by the estrangement of his wife and a need to find his friend, he puts his life on hold and suddenly this mature, sensible man finds himself entangled in a fight that shatters his expectations and optimism. Ebbin Hant's reckless, adventuresome, and thoughtless but transformed by war from a coward into a hero.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul H. Smith on November 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
WWI is one of the great events of modern times. "The Cartographer" is a sensitive and wise book about how it was experienced--in this case in France and by a "real" Nova Scotia family and community. The writer has a sure command of her subject--the War, the lives of those caught up in it, and human nature. It is also a something of a literary triumph--often prose as poetry. Amazing re-creation of the war in French trenches, of those immediately caught up in, and the transformation of the lives of those back on the home front. I would recommend it to any and all readers, and especially those interested in war and its impact on our lives.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Richard C. Katz on November 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer: I am a friend of the author and read an early, incomplete draft of the manuscript, but did not read the completed novel until a few days ago.

This is a beautifully told, well-researched story that put me alongside, sometimes in the heads of, the characters. I'm not sure where to place the novel as the story could be assigned to several genres, but for me, "The Cartographer of No Man's Land" is a drama about Angus McGrath, a young fisherman whose life in a quiet village in Nova Scotia is diminished by his disapproving father and distant wife. He draws and paints but no one, including he himself, sees any talent in his work. Even his poorly-built fishing boat lacks the grace and responsiveness he seeks and senses just beyond his grasp. Only the ocean and the stars give him peace. Only his young son, Simon Peter, and his best friend and brother-in-law, Ebbin, make him laugh and give him joy.

World War I is raging in Europe. The United States has yet to enter the war, but Canadian troops are in the thick of it. Canadian men everywhere are enlisting in patriotic fervor, anxious not to be left out. Ebbin enlists and shortly after entering battle, is reported MIA. Angus, torn between his wife's grief for her missing brother and his father's anti-war pacifism, reluctantly considers the risks of enlisting. He is assured by the recruiter of a safe job behind the lines in London as a cartographer due to his navigation and artistic skills, so he enlists as a way to make things right at home and try to help locate Ebbin. Once in London, though, he is sent to the front in Belgium where replacement officers are needed. The war action occurs against a landscape distorted by bomb craters, deserted towns and scorched forests, and segmented by trenches and barbwire.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Natasha Schmidt on November 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It took me a while to finish this, not because the book is tiresome but due to my own recent troubles. I almost didn't sign up for it through From Left to Write as I intended to participate in NaNoWriMo this month but I'm glad I was persuaded to do so. This is historical fiction at it's finest. The characters may not be real, but it's easy to believe they could have been. It's refreshing to read an account of The Great War from a Canadian perspective, we Americans can tend to be a bit ethnocentric. I loved the parallels between Angus and Paul oversees and Mr. Heist and Simon Peter back home. I'm amazed that even though the premise was Angus going to look for his brother-in-law, in the end it seemed as if the book wasn't about that. His search and what he found seemed almost a side story to the realities of war. I would recommend to anyone to enjoys historical fiction, and possibly even to those who don't.

I did received a copy of this book for review purposes, but all thoughts are my own.
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