I borrowed this book over a year and a half ago and last week I finally
decided to give it a try. On the whole, I thought it was pretty good.
Set in 18th century South America, The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder and Survival in the Amazon
tells the tale of a French-sponsored scientific expedition to what is
now present day Ecuador to accurately measure the circumference of the
earth. Eventually one of the expedition's younger members marries a
local girl, settles down and starts to raise a family. Eventually they
become separated by 3000 miles of Amazonian jungle and after 20 years
of waiting, the mapmaker's wife Isabel decides to make the tortuous
journey across South America to be with him.
While this book
was nothing great, I enjoyed the generous amounts of historical and
scientific backstory that the author included which provided the much
needed context for the story. This might make a helpful book if someone
wanted to read up on Latin American history or the Enlightenment period.
By the way, the author did commit a bit of a boo-boo. In a passage where Whitaker talks about the science of starvation, he mentioned
that the Donner Party's disaster happened in the Rockies. That is incorrect. It happened in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. I know this for a number of reasons, chief of which is I have actually visited the site once as a side trip on a family vacation.
It wasn't a great book, it wasn't even a really good book. But it wasn't bad one either. So I guess it was a pretty good book.