Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey – Rachel Hewitt

Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey - Rachel Hewitt
Map of a Nation – Rachel Hewitt

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.

Publisher page: Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey – Rachel Hewitt

Exposure – Helen Dunmore

Exposure - Helen Dunmore
Exposure – Helen Dunmore

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’m glad I  persevered.

Publisher’s page: Exposure – Helen Dunmore

The Wandering Earth – Cixin Liu

The Wandering Earth - Cixin Liu
The Wandering Earth – Cixin Liu

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.

Publisher’s page: The Wandering Earth – Cixin Liu

Space Below My Feet – Gwen Moffat

Space Below My Feet - Gwen Moffat
Space Below My Feet – Gwen Moffat

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.

But I gave up after Boats and Babies.

Publisher page: Space Below My Feet – Gwen Moffatt

Gwen Moffat // Interview with Emily Pitts. Published on Women Climb, 10 January 2014

Give Me Space Below My Feet: Is it possible to take the legendary climber 93-year-old Gwen Moffat back up into the mountains? Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 “Between the Ears” on 30 September 2017

Fool’s Quest – Robin Hobb

Fool's Quest - Robin Hobb
Fool’s Quest – Robin Hobb

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.

Wonderful!

Author’s page: Fool’s Quest – Robin Hobb (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy 2)

(and I’ve just realised the the UK cover illustrations are by the same Jackie Morris who collaborated with Robert Macfarlane to create the beautiful The Lost Words.)