The Cartographer of No Man's Land

The Cartographer of No Man's Land

4.7 4
by P. S. Duffy

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From a hardscrabble village in Nova Scotia to the collapsing trenches of France, a debut novel about a family divided by World War I.
In the tradition of Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife and Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, P. S. Duffy’s astonishing debut showcases a rare and instinctive talent emerging in midlife. Her novel leaps across the


From a hardscrabble village in Nova Scotia to the collapsing trenches of France, a debut novel about a family divided by World War I.
In the tradition of Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife and Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, P. S. Duffy’s astonishing debut showcases a rare and instinctive talent emerging in midlife. Her novel leaps across the Atlantic, between a father at war and a son coming of age at home without him.
When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into the visceral shock of battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief. With the intimacy of The Song of Achilles and the epic scope of The Invisible Bridge, The Cartographer of No Man’s Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Duffy’s first novel explores the circles of hell opened up by war, both on the actual war front and at home. Angus MacGrath leaves his beloved Nova Scotia to enlist in WWI and find his missing brother-in-law, Ebbin, defying Angus’s pacifist father. A sailor with a deft hand for sketching and painting, Angus expects to serve as a cartographer in London, but instead is sent to the front lines in France as an officer. Facing the possibility of his own death and witnessing the deaths of the men around him daily, he changes in ways he couldn’t have imagined. At home, his 13-year-old son, Simon Peter, deals with his own revelations about loyalty, prejudice, and connection. The novel takes a series of surprising plot turns, sometimes leaving the reader wondering how much actually happened and how much was imagined by the characters to protect themselves from horrific realities. 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. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (Oct.)
Simon Mawer
“Brilliant. The description of front line action in the trenches is impressively real, and the ending blessedly free from sentimentality. Altogether a remarkable debut.”
Mary Beth Keane
“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.”
Alexi Zentner
“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.”
Jessica Francis Kane
“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.”
Amy Brill
“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.”
Starred Review Booklist
“[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.”
New York Post
“Duffy’s well-researched account of bloody 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge should satisfy even the most die-hard of WWI buffs.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“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.”
“[Duffy’s] descriptions, especially of battle, are rich…to [Angus] and his unsung Canadian comrades Duffy has given a memorable voice.”
The Rumpus
“Among the novel’s great strengths are the unpredictable twists and turns that ensue…The Cartographer of No Man’s Land is a compelling first novel.”
Frances Itani - The Washington Post
“[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.”
O Magazine
“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.”
Library Journal
The year is 1916, and Angus MacGrath leaves Snag Harbor, a hardscrabble Nova Scotia fishing village, to join the war and search for his adored brother-in-law, Ebbin Hant, who has gone missing on the front lines. An artist, Angus is promised a cartographer's position in London but is instead sent directly to the battlegrounds of France. 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. While Angus battles in the trenches, his son Simon is fighting a war of his own back at home—traversing the growing hostility and blistering emotions of a grief-stricken village and his pacifist family while coming of age without his father. VERDICT Duffy's Nova Scotian roots trace back to over 250 years, and clearly the author has done her research to write a gripping World War I story told from two fronts, France and Canada. Essential reading for historical fiction lovers and war story fans alike; very highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/29/13.]—Lisa Block, Atlanta

Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
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Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

P. S. Duffy grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent summers sailing in Nova Scotia. She is a science writer for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where she lives with her husband.

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The Cartographer of No Man's Land: A Novel 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book, full of understanding, passion, nuance and rich description. A masterfully crafted story.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Free and easy