A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I picked up A Map Of The World mainly due to the rave reviews posted on the cover and opening pages, several from prestigious media critics. I should have realized that this was also the case with The Memory Keeper's Daughter, another highly lauded book that I grew extremely depressed reading.
A Map Of The World is a story of a quick tempered, impetuous Alice Goodwin, mother of two girls, wife of a dedicated farmer, part time school nurses, who grows distracted for a few minutes one tragic morning while babysitting her friend's daughters. The loss of her best friend's daughter heralds not only pity and anger from the surrounding community, but a loss of a precious friendship for Alice, the fall from grace in the eyes of her husband and her family and a lawsuit accusing Alice of inappropriate behaviour with school children.
The pace of the novel is somewhat confusing. In the first chapter alone we are introduced to the protagonist and her family, the surrounding area and general life style, and we read about the unfortunate events that lead up to the death of a little girl. Despite the quick pace of the first chapter, I found the rest of the novel dragged. There was much smaller amounts of conversation compared to the descriptive nature of the writing. In that way I can compare this writing style to The Memory Keeper's Daughter, as both were extremely wordy; reading the scattered thoughts tumbling around in one's head does not necessarily make for a well written or interesting book.
So ultimately A Map Of The World commits the crime that I have suffered through with many other books: pretentious writing. I don't understand the writer's need to pen random sentences that aren't connected to anything else, then expect the reader to understand what is being put forward to them. In the end, I simply wished that Jane Hamilton had written more about the plot and the unspoken conversations that had occurred between the characters.
What kept me reading through to the last page was the premise of the novel: a clever plot that was simply not executed well. When dealing with legal matters of the courtroom, the discussions between the social workers and the aid society, the workings of the system and the response of people to each other in dire circumstances, heavy handed descriptions are nowhere nearly as useful as well constructed conversations that keep us aware of what exactly is going on.
Would I recommend this novel to anyone else? No, probably not. Even though, as I said, the premise itself was interesting, I simply didn't find the tempo of the novel satisfactory. What could have been a compelling read became a task. From now on, I will attempt to avoid picking up novels based on shining reviews from People.
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