A history of the Ordnance Survey and the men behind the maps. Sounds dry? It’s fascinating.
We start with unruly Jacobite Scotland, head south to the Enlightenment lowlands, journey around Kent, connect up with France, stretch up to Shetland, collect place name data in Ireland and – eventually – five lifetimes in – publish the last sheet of the first full map of the British Isles.
I almost gave up on Helen Dunmore’s Cold War novel. I didn’t like the “men from the Ministry” – the all male world of a post-War Admiralty, and the spooks and the spies at work there – and it wasn’t until the narrative shifted to focus more on the fall out for Lily Callington and her family and friends that I really cared about any of the characters.
You gradually learn that Lily was born in Germany to Jewish parents, and fled as a child with her mother to London. She’s buried that part of her life, and has lost all memory of the German language despite teaching French and Italian at a North London Girl’s school. Her husband, Simon Callington, is a lowly clerk at the Admiralty, who has a secret of his own from his Cambridge student days which ultimately enmeshes him in Cold War corruption.
I can’t remember where I saw the recommendation to read Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. I still haven’t, but I did spot The Wandering Earth on my last flying visit to the Barbican Library, so I picked it up.
First published in 2000, The Wandering Earth is an anthology of short stories, some of which have won China’s Galaxy Award. A couple of common themes stood out for me – alien first encounters and humankind’s need to leave the solar system. A lot of humour too.
I’m afraid I abandoned this autobiography, and I’m rather ashamed to admit that.
I feel that I ought to have relished reading about the life and achievements of Gwen Moffat (still going strong at 93), who made a living from climbing and writing from the 1940s onwards, becoming the first female British mountain guide in 1953, and wrangling marriage and motherhood alongside it all.
Joy and loss for Tom Badgerlock – he finally finds the Fool after years apart, but an attack on Withywoods destroys his sanctuary and sees the kidnap of his small daughter Bee …
… and the Witted Bastard returns from the dead, as Tom / Fitz is finally, formally recognised as Prince FtizChivalry Farseer, cousin of the king and instrumental in the survival and success of the Six Duchies.