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Mapping the Edge

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Overview

Anna, a self-sufficient and reliable single mother, packs her bags one day for a short vacation to Italy. She leaves her beloved daughter at home in London with good friends. When Anna doesn’t return, everyone begins to make excuses, until the likelihood that she might not come back at all becomes chillingly clear. In this dazzling work of suspense, Sarah Dunant interweaves parallel narratives that are stretched taut with tension even as they raise difficult questions about love, trust, and accountability. We are...
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Mapping the Edge

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Overview

Anna, a self-sufficient and reliable single mother, packs her bags one day for a short vacation to Italy. She leaves her beloved daughter at home in London with good friends. When Anna doesn’t return, everyone begins to make excuses, until the likelihood that she might not come back at all becomes chillingly clear. In this dazzling work of suspense, Sarah Dunant interweaves parallel narratives that are stretched taut with tension even as they raise difficult questions about love, trust, and accountability. We are challenged, unnerved, and ultimately exhilarated as Dunant redefines the boundaries of the psychological thriller.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Very smart . . . a riveting thriller.” —Baltimore Sun

“What if we cannot know even those we love best? In Mapping the Edge, Sarah Dunant writes with wonderful intelligence about the dark intricacies of motherhood, friendship, love, and obsession. A brilliantly plotted, ruthlessly intelligent, and highly readable novel.”
—Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture

“[Dunant] plots with remarkable intricacy [and] is a master at creating anxiety and mystery.” —The Washington Post

“Thoroughly satisfying . . . departs from the usual thriller formula . . . but it contains its own full array of surprises. . . . Dunant’s feel for the geography of bed and willing flesh is a pleasure. . . . In moments . . . that delve into the subtleties and varieties of love and desire, Dunant emerges as a shrewd observer.”
The New York Times Book Review

Carol Memmott
The difference between real life and fiction is that life plays itself out in a series of unchangeable events. In Mapping the Edge, Duant gives us a chance to see the "what if?" side of life by telling the story of Anna in parallel narratives.
USA Today
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What happened to Anna Franklin? That's the question posed in Dunant's latest novel, detailing five days in the life of those close to an English journalist who heads off on a short holiday and doesn't return when she is expected. Waiting anxiously at home are Anna's six-year-old daughter, Lily; Lily's part-time surrogate father, Paul; and Estella, Anna's best friend and Lily's godmother, who has flown in from Amsterdam. Caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty, Anna's makeshift family lives from moment to moment, waiting for the phone to ring, the door to openDhoping beyond hope for a simple explanation of Anna's absence. Two parallel "what if" stories run the course of the novel, tangling the reader in a web of suspense and confusion. Is Anna depressed by Lily's growing independence and feeling a need to reconnect with the woman she used to be before she became a mother? Or is she the victim of a tragic obsession gone awry, kidnapped by a psychopath with no feelings of remorse? While either story could accurately explain Anna's disappearance, each version shows a different side of the missing woman and the motivations behind her sudden trip. The suspense is good enough to keep the pages turning and the secondary characters' reactions lend credibility to the plot line; however, the ambiguous conclusion reads more like a cop-out than a subtle send-off. Most interesting is the convincing portrayal of Anna's alternative family and their quietly unconventional 21st-century living arrangements. Though she is known as a writer of sophisticated thrillers (Transgressions; Under My Skin), Dunant here leans gracefully toward straight literary fiction. Agent, Claire Alexander at Aitken & Stone. (Feb. 23) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sixth novel by Golden Dagger nominee Dunant (Fatlands), Anna Franklin, a London journalist and single mother, flies to Florence for a brief vacation and fails to return as scheduled. Dunant then tells three stories, one of which takes place at Anna's home in London and two that present alternate explanations for her disappearance. Both of Anna's rather improbable adventures involve mysterious men, one a secret lover and the other a psychopath. Switching back and forth between the two tales dissipates much of the tension that either plot line might have otherwise sustained. Anna is strangely acquiescent, creating a creepy sense that she is, in part, a collaborator in her own victimization. The most compelling chapters are those narrated by Anna's friend Estella, a witty, commitment-phobic corporate attorney who flies in from Amsterdam to care for Anna's six-year-old daughter, Lily. Recommended only for public libraries collecting heavily in suspense fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/00.]--Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375758614
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/12/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 580,776
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Dunant
Sarah Dunant has written six suspense novels, three of which have been shortlisted for Britain’s prestigious Golden Dagger award. Her novel Fatlands won the Silver Dagger. As a journalist and critic, she has worked extensively in print, radio, and television, where for many years she hosted her own show on the BBC. She lives in London with her family.

Biography

British novelist, broadcaster, and critic Sarah Dunant is well known on both sides of the pond for her bestselling series of mysteries featuring sleuth Hannah Wolfe. Other novels feature the challenging, often absurd, choices women face for love and identity.

Dunant's first two novels were actually co-authored with Peter Busby, thus creating their pseudonym, Peter Dunant. In Exterminating Angels (1983), whether they're called terrorists or modern-day Robin Hoods, the Exterminating Angels are out to set the record straight. For them, the ends always justify the means when righting the wrongs of the world. The political thriller Intensive Care (1986) describes a chance meeting at the site of an explosion in London.

The first book to be released under her own name was Snow Storms in a Hot Climate (1987), and features Marla Masterson. Marla, a young British professor of Anglo Saxon Literature goes to New York City to rescue a friend from her drug-addled, abusive boyfriend, but not before a murder mystery ensnares them all.

Three years later, Dunant introduced readers to Hannah Wolfe, a tough and witty Private Investigator. In Birth Marks (1990), Wolfe is hired to find a missing ballerina. Unfortunately, the dancer is found by the police -- eight months pregnant and at the bottom of the Thames. When everyone but Wolfe writes off the young single woman's death as a suicide, Wolfe pushes her investigation into London's dance companies and powerful Parisian families, searching for the father. Wolfe's reputation is put on the chopping block in Fatlands (1993). Wolfe finds herself on the trail of a violent animal rights activist group after they kill the daughter of a wealthy scientist for using animals in his experiments. The novel won Dunant a Silver Dagger award for Crime Fiction. Disguised as a customer, Wolfe investigates a string of sabotage at the Castle Dean health spa in Under My Skin (1995) and soon learns that, to some, beauty is something to die -- or kill -- for.

Breaking from her Hannah Wolfe series, Dunant's next release explores the line between victim and victor. In Transgressions (1997), translator Lizzie Skvorecky is making a living translating cheap Czech thrillers into English. When the strange events of the novels seem to occur in her real life, Lizzie realizes that someone -- or something -- is tampering with her reality, and accepts the violent challenge to her sanity. Kirkus reviews describes the novel as "an unsettling, often chilling, portrait of a compulsive predator and the woman who refuses to be his prey."

Mapping the Edge (1999) also portrays a woman's unusual challenges. When Anna, a single mother, takes a short vacation to Italy, leaving her six-year-old daughter with trusted friends, no one thinks twice. Until she doesn't return when scheduled. Anna's friends and her daughter endure the painful waiting while Dunant offers two explanations of Anna's disappearance. What if Anna abandoned the responsibility of motherhood to follow a hot love affair? Or perhaps Anna's life is in the hands of a sadistic killer.

Along with writing fiction, Dunant has also edited two works of non-fiction. War of the Words: The Politically Correct Debate (1994) debates the ever-changing idea of what is "acceptable" and the effect political correctness has on Liberalism. In The Age of Anxiety (1999), ten essayists discuss their anxiety -- or optimism -- for issues such as technology, family, and the end of the millennium.

Dunant's 2004 release marks her foray into historical fiction. The Birth of Venus captures the passion and the politics of deMedici Florence in the grips of a fundamentalist religious overhaul. As the city starts to purge itself of "the low and vulgar arts," the novel's heroine, Alessandra, falls in love with a young, suffering painter. Although her family marries her to a much older man, it is mostly a dismal marriage of convenience and she has a surprisingly large amount of time to spend at the side of her true love. Intelligent and daring, Duanant has combined a love story, a thriller and a historical novel in telling Alessandra's quest to find and protect her passions.

Good To Know

In our interview, Dunant shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself with us:

"I once worked as a hostess in a Japanese nightclub."

"My left foot is bigger than my right."

"I cannot whistle (no Humphrey Bogart for me, then)."

"Alas I don't have time to relax, although I am trying. The most important things in my life are my work, my children, my friends, and the possibility of a plane ticket to somewhere I have not yet been. When my kids grow up I want to have enough energy to get out a rucksack and take a long trip without a due-back-by date and the wonder to be changed by what I discover en route. Though right at this moment what I would like most is to remember where I put the car keys."

"And when it comes to writing, I just want to say that the novel is not the author. Just as the life is not the work or the work the life;instead literature is a kind of alchemy: turning lead into gold. Or at least that's the ambition."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Peter Dunant
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 8, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cambridge University, 1973

Read an Excerpt

Departure lounge, South Terminal, Gatwick Airport. A shopper's paradise: two floors of superior retail space connected by gliding glass lifts and peopled by an endless stream of travelers, processed to have time on their hands and a permanent discount at the wave of a boarding card. If you are smart you come here with an empty case and do your packing as you walk: cosmetics, toiletries, clothes, shoes, books, perfumes, booze, cameras, films. For many the holiday starts here. You can see it in their faces. People shop differently, none of that suburban mall madness. Instead they stroll and browse, couples with their arms around each other, the beach saunter already in their stride, children dancing behind their parents in the hermetic safety of a controlled environment. When did you last read a horror story about a child abducted in a departure lounge?

Second floor, a cappuccino bar with tables out on the concourse, next to the Body Shop and Accessorize. A woman is sitting alone at a table, a small holdall by her side, her boarding card lying near to a plastic cup in front of her. She has no carrier bags, no duty free. She is not interested in shopping. Instead she is watching others and thinking about how it was twenty years before when she came to this airport as a teenager, on her first solo flight to Europe. None of this existed then. Before the invention of niche marketing, air travel had been a serious, more reverent affair. People wore their best clothes for flying then, and duty free meant two hundred Rothmans and a bottle of Elizabeth Arden perfume. It seems as far away as black-and-white photography. At that time her flight had been delayed for three hours. Too young for cheap booze and too poor for perfume, she had sat in a row of red bucket chairs nailed to the ground and read her guidebooks, mapping a city she had only ever visited in her mind, trying to quieten the tumbling adrenaline inside her. The rest of her life had been waiting on the other side of Gate 3 and she had been aching to walk into it.

It is not the same now. Now, though there is adrenaline it has no playfulness within it. Instead it burns the insides of her stomach, feeding off apprehension and caffeine. There are moments when she wishes she hadn't come. Or that she had brought Lily with her. Lily would have loved the circus of it all; her chatter would have filled up the silence, her curiosity would have nudged the cynicism toward wonder. But this is not Lily's journey. Her absence is part of the point.

She pushes the coffee cup away from her and slips the boarding card back into her pocket. When she last looked at the monitor the Pisa flight was still waiting to board. Now it is flashing last call. Gate 37. She gets up and walks toward the glass lift.

Twenty years ago as she made this last walk there had been a Beatles track playing in her head. "She's Leaving Home." It was dated by then, already ironic. It had made her smile. Maybe that was her problem. She was no longer comforted by irony.

Amsterdam

Friday p.m.

On Friday evenings I like to take drugs. I suppose you could call it a habit, though hardly a serious one. I see it, rather, as a way to relax; the end of work, the need to let go, welcome the weekend, that kind of thing. Sometimes it's dope, sometimes it's alcohol. Like most things in my life it has a routine. I come in, turn on the radio, roll a spliff, sit at the kitchen table, and wait for the world to uncurl. I like the way life becomes when I'm stoned: more malleable, softer at the edges. It feels familiar to me. Reassuring. I've been doing it a long time. I started smoking when I was in my teens. I got my first stash from the boyfriend of a friend: an early example of adolescent free enterprise. The first time I smoked there were other people around, but it didn't take me long to discover solitude. I used to sit upstairs and blow the smoke out of my bedroom window. If my father knew (and it seems impossible to me now that he didn't) he was smart enough not to call me on it. I was never into rebellion, only into solitude. And being stoned. And so it has continued throughout my life. Though you probably wouldn't know it from meeting me. I don't look the type, you see. It has always been one of my greatest talents, that in the nine-to-five game I come over as the professional to my fingertips, brain like my clothes: sharp lines and no frills. Straight, in other words. One of life's good girls. The kind you can depend on. But everyone has to slip off their shoulder pads sometimes.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Do you think the book’s speculative agenda, its parallel narratives, explore a disquiet particularly characteristic of midlife? Is it an unrest limited to middle age? Why or why not?

2. 2.Discuss Dunant’s portrayal of Anna’s unconventional “family.” Is it a sufficient replacement for a typical nuclear family, in your opinion? What did you make of the rivalry between Estella and Paul, or that between Anna and Michael, for that matter? How does the childhood loss of her own mother inform Estella’s feelings for Lily?

3. How does the disingenuous nature of Anna’s affair with the art dealer heighten its intensity, for both? What is Dunant suggesting about the nature of sexual intimacy and personal trust?

4. Do you think Dunant succeeds in her divergent storytelling? How do differing versions of the truth work to subvert the form of the typical thriller? How does the double plot serve as a metaphor for the duality of Anna’s desires, or those of anyone? How does Dunant resolve this dilemma, in your opinion? Does she?

5. Discuss Dunant’s comparison of the physical connection between a mother and child to that of a woman and her lover. How are the varieties of love and desire intertwined here--for better and for worse?

6. Discuss the intense, visceral love Anna and Lily feel for one another. According to Dunant, to what extent can Anna have a life separate from Lily?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 11, 2009

    Disturbing and thought-provoking

    How well do you REALLY know your best friend? That's the question that this novel explores and takes to a creepy extreme. Ignore the other reviews from readers who were confused with the alternating "What really happened to Anna?" scenarios - they clearly didn't pay attention at the beginning of the novel. In the end, what actually happened to Anna during her "disappearance" doesn't matter. The book works because either of the scenarios are completely plausible. Which one you choose to believe depends on how suspicious or paranoid you are (or aren't). Fascinating premise that is very unsettling simply because it makes you realize that you may never truly know the person to whom you think you are closest. It sent chills down my spine. I WILL agree with the readers who were confused by the novel's last paragraph; it threw me, too. Would love to ask the author what she meant by it. Other than that, a thoroughly enjoyable and very different kind of book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2003

    Edgy Evocation

    A witty, sensitive yet gripping exploration of relationships and self-discovery, hung on the tale of a woman who doesn't come home and the interactions of those who await her return. Brilliantly subtle, perceptive characterisation along with ingenious, agile yet readily understandable time and scene-shifting plotlines speak to an intelligent audience. Intrigue and tension is maintained right to the finish. (By the way, pay no attention to reviewers who found the plot structure confusing -- I'll charitably suggest that they must have been extremely fatigued when they picked up the book...)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2009

    Don't waste your time or money

    Have loved all her other books. This book was awful. I have to admit, I do not usually stop reading I attempt to go on and finish a book, however this was not worth it.

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Don't waste your time.

    The plot for this book was so muddy & predictable. I must say the style going back & forth was interesting. However, I was never drawn into the story. By the time I was finished with this book, I was ready to put it into the trash can.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2007

    Nice try

    The novel feels rushed, as if the author were attempting to make time for her publishers instead of fulfilling the plot's needs. I was disapointed in the overall conclusion, as well as each individual plot line. I felt nothing for the characters, there wasn't one that was real or lifelike- only names on paper. Not enough thought was placed in the prepration of the writing or outlining. Although well written, the novel does seek to expand on an interesting idea for a plot, but at some point these seperate portions should have reunited. I felt no suspense and this is probably because I felt nothing for the characters (a good plot is only important when you care for the people concerned). It took entirely too long to read. Overall, disapointing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2006

    Poorly Done

    I enjoyed the Birth of Venus, so when I saw this book in the Aiport Bookstore I grabbed it. I missed the whole plot split and re-read all the 'Away' sections twice to try to figure out what was going on. It seemed to me the author had two different ideas for a story line and couldn't decide which to use, so just threw them together into one book - and did neither of them justice in terms of plot development.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2004

    Creative

    This book is similiar to the movie Sliding Doors. Anna is missing and we are told two stories about what may have happened to her. The book is well written. You may have to review the beginning of the book to see where the story splits to two stories. I enjoyed reading a well written thriller.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2001

    CONFUSING SLIDING DOORS

    I enjoyed reading this book, but it took me all the way to the end and I had to go back to the beginning to find the 'point of departure'--she does/doesn't buy the wooden horse on the first day in the market. I also enjoyed the parts narrated by the friend who is in London caring for her daughter than what was happening with Anna. It took me the whole book to realize the kidnapping was an alternate to the other timeline instead of sequential. The point of departure was too subtle for the reader to catch on quickly enough to enjoy the alternate universe--I went back and read several sections after FINALLY getting it and it was more interesting. I would read something by this author again, but a better prologue on the jacket cover might be an improvement before the reader dives in and is trying to figure out when she spent the weekend with 'art-boy' and which weekend she spends locked up with 'photo-boy'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2001

    What Does This Book Want to Be?

    If the author was trying for confusion, she did well. Unfortunately, this confusion does nothing for the reader but frustrate and, eventually, bore. If one enjoys reading page after page without understanding where the book is taking you, then this is the book for you. Frankly, the only reason I finished it was that I had nothing left to read, and I couldn't get to the library. It did not inspire suspense since you didn't know whether events were really happening or if this was going to turn out to be some cliched 'dream sequence.' The only character I enjoyed was Estella, and her part of the book was the only part that was grounded in a reality that the reader could understand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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