The Mapping of Love and Death - seventh in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
There's something about a Jacqueline Winspear book that slows me down. I barely notice turning the pages. I am transported back to Maisie Dobbs' time and place, and I almost become part of the story. We are now in 1932 and there are still echoes of the First World War. In this book the remains of a young American cartographer in the British army have just been found. His parents hire Maisie to try and find the nurse they believe their late son was in love with during the war. The father gives Maisie a post-mortem report, and as she studies it she sees that this young man, Michael Clifton, was not a casualty of war, but was murdered. Soon after their arrival in London both parents are badly beaten in their hotel room.
This is a series in which Maisie gets older and times change. I suppose they could be read out of order but the reading pleasure really comes from following this woman through her life. In The Mapping of Love and Death big changes occur which have greater meaning if we have read the earlier books.
I cannot praise the series highly enough. The books are categorized as mysteries, but really they are the story of Maisie Dobbs. Because of her work as an investigator, there is always a mystery going on, and as interesting and intriguing as it may be, what this reader loves is the character and her life and times, and the people around her. I already find myself worrying about the approach of the next war. Maisie's dear friend Priscilla lost three brothers in the Great War, and now has three sons who could grow up to fight in a war they know nothing of as yet. I think about her assistant Billy whose wife has had mental problems of late. The reason for them occurs in an earlier book. Will she recover? Billy's goal is to move his family to a new life in Canada. Maisie's mentor, and second father, is aging; as is her own dad. Rich. That's the word for these books. Rich with detail, history, and most importantly, character. And I love the covers!
Addendum: I should have given you the author's excellent website for those new to the series.
I'll leave you with a few passages.
I'll leave you with a few passages.
"The mapmaker is not only a mathematician, but an artist. He has to look at the earth and see what needs to be seen, then represent it in a way that means something - to a class, a sailor, a walker on the hills, the driver of a motor car, or those who orchestrate a battle. ..."
Soon supper was announced, and Priscilla put her arm around her husband's waist as they led their guests into the dining room. Douglas Partridge had suffered an amputation to his arm in the war, and used his remaining hand to wield a walking stick. His wife never considered the protocols of society matrons when accompanying her husband and thought nothing of putting an arm around his shoulder or waist.
"She has her bad days, but nothing like before," replied Billy. "Mind you, I wish I had a little book with instructions in it. Whenever I get worried, if I see her doing something that looks dodgy, like folding only half the laundry, then leaving the rest while she sits by the fire or something - I wish I had something to go back to, you know, a manual that could answer my questions: 'Is this all right?' 'Is she going backward?' Or, 'Is this normal?' "
Maisie prepared a simple evening meal of soused mackeral and vegetables, with a slice of bread and jam for pudding. In general, she did not mind a solitary repast, often taken on a tray while she sat in one of the armchairs, a fork in one hand and a book in the other. And she was under no illusions regarding the significance of the book, whether a novel or some work of reference. As she turned the pages, the characters or subject matter became her company, a distraction so that the absence of a dining companion - someone with whom to share the ups and downs of her day, from the surprising to the mundane - was not so immediate. Guests to her home were few, and after such a visit, during which a linen cloth would be laid on the dinning table and cutlery and glasses set for two, the vacuum left by the departing visitor seemed to echo along the hallway and into the walls. It was at those times, when her aloneness took on a darker hue, that she almost wished there would be no more guests, for then there would be no chasm of emptiness for her to negotiate when they were gone.