The Cartographer of No Man's Land
by P. S. Duffy
Liveright, 2013. 371 pgs. Fiction
The 2014 centenary of the beginning of World War I has brought to us the tender-hearted and terrible story Angus MacGrath, a Canadian waterman and artist who defies his pacifist father to enlist as a cartographer so he can look for his missing brother-in-law who is also his best friend. But London is already crawling with cartographers so Angus is sent to the front. Back home his son, Simon Peter is trying to grow up without his father, sometimes caught between his anxious mother and his angry grandfather. The particular horrors of the war in the trenches are laid bare here, as are the contrasting beauties of life on and off the water back home. How Angus loses himself and his art, but then finds himself again for his son's sake, is the burden of this powerful, beautiful narrative.