Comprehending the Edge














If I ever needed a group of people to discuss a book I’ve read, it would be now. I’ve finally finished reading Sarah Dunant’s Mapping the Edge, and don’t quite know what to think. Whenever it takes me this long (two weeks at night in bed for about 20 or 30 minutes if I’m lucky) to read a book that size (a mere 301 pages), well, something’s wrong. For days, I have had the book on my mind like some strange puzzle and have found myself talking to the MoH about it — which is just wrong. He doesn’t read. Well, he reads, but would rather not. Numbers. He loves numbers, remember? Mmmm…numbers. Plus, he just finished David Sedaris’ Naked, so his brain is permanently fried now and he probably won’t be able to read ever again without twitching and burping colorful expletives from time to time.

Like a complete loser, I looked around different sites for what other people thought about Mapping the Edge, and found myself commiserating with those who had the Huh? factor going on. I know, pathetic. Misery loves company — the kind of company Amazon dot com provides in the review section where you can commune with others who need a refresher Reading Comprehension 101 course, or a simple smack upside the head.

So what drew me to this book to begin with? And what difference does it make at this point? The comments on the back. Comments like, “What if we cannot know even those we love best? In Mapping the Edge, Sarah Dunant writes with wonderful intelligence about the dark intricacies of motherhood, friendship, love, and obsession. A brilliantly plotted, ruthlessly intelligent, and highly readable novel.” — Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture (have you ever heard of this book?) And the difference this makes is that I have over 50 books in this house that I have to read, and I’m worried I’m going to grapple with all of them this way, because I should have snorted them all up a long time ago in one-nighter style. I would have if they’d been really good, right? But I’ve forgotten that I usually choose books that aren’t being read by everyone else at this minute, or as recommended by this recognizable person or that reviewer, or have been written by first time published authors. I don’t know why. It’s just what I do. I also end up with books loaned by well-intentioned and well-read friends who are trying to save me from chic lit reader-slut-dom.

Is Mapping the Edge worth reading? Yes. I truly enjoyed the fear and uncertainty Dunant’s characters were able to convey through their thoughts. There is little dialog though, so you have to want to be in someone’s head the entire time — either Stella, the story’s narrator, or Anna, her friend. Anna, the one who is presumed missing by those who don’t think she’d just walk away from her life and her 7-year-old daughter. Anna, who oddly becomes the object of strangely parallel, but very different plot lines: one that involves a lover and one that involves a stranger she accepts a ride from. From one chapter to the next, the monologue changes back and forth from Stella, to one Anna, and then the other Anna. I began to question which scenario was real. Had she really been abducted, or was she trying to recapture herself after being long lost in the demands of motherhood?

My preoccupation with reality became a distraction, and I frequently flipped back and forth as I read, comparing. So much of Anna’s dilemma was unfortunately reminiscent of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and that was also distracting. Of course Anna doesn’t wake to find herself transformed into a bug, but being so tightly locked in one’s thoughts, seemingly incapable of communicating with those around you, and feeling that you are trapped does create quite a bit of tension. That tension is what carried me through the book to the end…which isn’t actually there. I’m still shaking my head. The Birth of Venus, anyone? I hear it’s very good, but, after reading this, I need a break from Dunant, regardless of how atmospheric her prose is.

My list of 56 books? It will be on my Too Many Books page. Please check out the list, and if you can offer me some direction (besides giving up because at this rate, I’ll never get them read by the end of the year) about which you may have read and enjoyed, PLEASE let me know in a sentence or two.

Would you:

Finish the ones I’ve started;

Read the short ones first;

Read the ones that got the best reviews (whatever that means);

Give the ones that don’t belong to me back to their owners, thereby reducing my list (which would be cheating);

Read by similar characteristics; or

Do the Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Mo thing and shut the hell up and just read for Godssake!






6 responses to “Comprehending the Edge”

  1. Your too many books link is broken… so I can only tell you about the books in your picture. ..and the only one I’ve read is She’s Come Undone. I loved that book.

    Your list is like mine

    I’ll have to add Mapping the Edge to my list of want-to-reads.

  2. kellypea

    Thanks for the heads up on the link. I think it’s fixed now. Let me know what you think about the Edge when you’re done. Maybe your brain works better than mine.

  3. Jennifer

    I just finished this book last night. I was waiting to figure it out in the end and instead was left with a “huh?” I really don’t think I liked it and probably won’t be reading any of her works again.
    I found your site by googling the book and author. It looks like many of us are confused and/or disappointed with this book.

  4. Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for chiming in on this one. Have you EVER been more confused? A good friend has said the Birth of Venus is quite good, so I’ll think about it. Maybe, but jeez….Huh? is totally correct.

  5. samantha neugebauer

    Hi, I am equally confused by Mapping the Edge…The Birth of Venus is one of my favorite contemporary novels…this was such a drastic change from that. It had the atmosphere…but not the tightness. I am left confused, and disappointed. Did I miss something?

  6. […] duped into thinking it would be “irresistable,” and all the while trudging through Mapping the Edge. Waiting, waiting to open that cover and surely snort the book up in one lazy afternoon. […]

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