Monday, May 17, 2010

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

The Mapping of Love and Death - seventh in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2010
library book
finished, 5/4/10

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.

"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.


  1. I've read only the first book of this series and wasn't particularly taken with it. Are all the books of the same quality, or are some better than others? I'm wondering if the books get better as they go along and if I should give the series another try.

  2. Hi Nan: I have just finished reading this book as well. I find by the second page, I am deep into the story, and can't wait to turn each page to see how it unfolds. Jacqueline Winspear is by far right near the top of my favourite writers. I was thinking of you as I read, and I am glad you enjoyed the book.

  3. Sounds very interesting. I love the front cover as well!

    Thanks for sharing


  4. Gosh, Christy, I don't know what to say. I loved the first one, and have loved each one since.

    Donna, I'm so touched that you thought of me. I agree; she is a writer I just love.

    Hannah, all the covers have that same sort of look. Each one suits the book inside perfectly.

  5. I must get that second book from the library. I loved the first one, and have the third one here to read, but of course, must read in order, especially after reading your note. I love when the series and characters grow and age. I'm looking forward to enjoying this series.
    I searched at the recent used book sale for other copies, but couldn't find any. Drat.

    My daughter quite enjoyed the pictures of the sheep being sheered. Adorable.

  6. Raidergirl, I love thinking of your daughter looking at the pictures.

    I have a friend who is reading the Maisie series for the first time. She's reading one right after the other. I'd love to do that sometime.

  7. Tinky, I just adore these books!

    Margaret, you are so right!

  8. Can't wait! I'm a big fan of Maisie!

  9. I've read the first three in the series and can't wait to get to the rest. I've so enjoyed listening to them on audio and think I'll just continue with that format. Then, maybe in a few years, I'll go back and read the entire series again.

    Love that last passage you quoted, Nan. I keep hoping for good things for Maisie.

  10. I love the Maisie Dobbs books. Not much gardening got done after I came home from the library with this book.

  11. JenClair, me too!!

    Les, I love that passage, too. And doesn't that just show how real she is to us as readers, when you say, 'I keep hoping for good things for Maisie'

    Some series I've only listened to: Mrs. Pollifax and Amelia Peabody for examples. In those two cases, the narrator is Barbara Rosenblat, and she has just become the characters for me!

    Common Weeder, the books certainly do captivate the reader!

  12. I too love the Maisie Dobbs books.
    I think the writing was a bit awkward in places in the first book and smoothed out with each successive addition to the series.
    I'm thinking I haven't read this latest one--and it is fun to read them in order and several [or all you can find!] in one lovely big wallow.
    I read the first several in the series just after transcribing the WWI letters home of my great uncle--the dual impact was heavy.

  13. Morning's Minion, I didn't feel that myself but I hope that Christy will come back and read your words which may encourage her to continue with the series. Thank you! What a venture, working on those letters. Did you put them in book form for the family?

  14. I am reading at present the last book (I thought) in the Maisie Dobbs series & was worried that this was the last one. I went to the authors web sight & discovered that there is # 9 coming out in March.Thank Goodness! I have had so many wonderful hours reading these books. It feels like Maisie is now a personal friend. Jacqueline Windspear along with Elizabeth George are at the top of my favourite authors list. If you are going to start this series I would recommend reading them in order.

  15. Joy, I am so pleased that you wrote. I, too love this series. I have the latest one but I think I'll wait to read it until the new one comes out so I can read them one after the other.


I'll answer your comments as soon as I possibly can. Please do come back if you've asked a question.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.