Tuesday, 10 November 2015

X marks the spot - Karen Bush


Maps in books ...
When I gave my godson a book recently which I thought he might enjoy, he was thrilled to find that it had maps at the front. "I love maps!" he declared. Well, he is only 11. Although I love maps too, and I'm (nearly) grown up. I remember the excitement of following our progress in the atlas when out in the car (yes, this was pre-Sat Nav): I spent hours poring over the OS map for our area to look for bridleways and places to ride or walk to (and still do): the only geography lessons that actually captured my attention at school where those on map-reading and what all those squiggly lines and interesting icons meant ... I even had maps hanging on my bedroom wall - a giant poster of Middle Earth, a tea towel showing Kruger National Park (my Dad had visited while on an overseas business trip) and an old 18th century print of Northamptonshire, where I stayed during the holidays.
Maps to wondrous places ...
I get a kick out of seeing maps in fiction books too - whether imaginary places such as the Six Duchies of Robin Hobbs' trilogy of trilogies, or Anne McCaffrey's Pern, or real ones such as in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. I even have a map and street directory of Ankh-Morpork ...
I have all sorts of proper maps too, ranging from guides to places like Stowe Landscape Gardens and Chiltern Open Air Museum, to a number of OS maps and road atlases (can't abide SatNav).
I'm always especially thrilled to discover places in a book that you can find on a modern day map, although sometimes you have to do your own donkey work in finding the locations of places mentioned. Three Men in a Boat is one of my favourite books, and it's lovely not just to be able to trace the locations on a map, but to have them so close by to visit. There are places which are barely changed and you can half close your eyes and easily imagine J, Harris and George sculling past, with Montmorency keeping watch at the pointy end.
The same applies to Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising - although some are a series of composites, based on places such as Dorney Common and Cliveden, others, such as Huntercombe Lane and Windsor Great Park really exist in their own right, and all of them can be visited both by map and, if you cant get there on your own two feet, via Google Earth.
Which way? Check the map!
I recently picked up copies of William Cobbet's Rural Rides and Alison Uttley's Buckinghamshire and again, it is lovely to track down the places mentioned. Sadly, having succumbed long ago to 'progress' and 'development', sometimes those real places in books have changed so much that they are almost unrecognisable. Thank goodness then, for Jerome, Cooper, Cobbet, Uttley and all those others who have written so lovingly and vividly of these places, preserving them forever in the mind's eye, long after reality has hidden them from view beneath layers of concrete and tarmac, and they have vanished from maps ...  




Haunting Hounds
Please forgive me if I finish with another teeny weeny plug for Haunting Hounds as 50% of all royalties go to a wonderful charity - Kim's Home - please buy a copy or send it as a gift to someone else!
Find out more about the book HERE
and about Kim's Home HERE


12 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

When it comes to maps I think I have map dyslexia. They mean nothing to me. Yet I have to agree that a book with a map inside it is somehow magical. It's as though you are somehow there right in the pages, not only mentally but physically. Thank you for this.

JO said...

I'm with you in the loving-maps corner. Anything from a world atlas - with its mountains and rivers and forests, so full of possibilities - to walking maps with sarsen stones shown as little grey blobs.

Bill Kirton said...

I'm not sure where I lie on the reactions-to-maps spectrum. If I see one at the start of a book, my heart sinks a little because it implies that I'm going to need to flick back and refer to it to orientate myself in the narrative, which may disrupt (even if only slightly) the flow of the fiction. On the other hand, when I decided to write a historical novel, my actual, specific choice of date was made when I found an ordnance survey map of Aberdeen dated 1840. The book was written, the sequel is well under way, and I still use the map and get lots of pleasure out of walking streets and areas that are unchanged and tracing blank expanses beyond the then city limits which I now know to be jam packed with new communities and, inevitably, shopping malls and industrial estates.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I love maps too - whether in books or in real life. I've got a very old hard back edition of The Lord of the Rings with fold out maps in all three books - magic. There are 17th and 18th century maps of various parts of Scotland available online now from the National Library of Scotland and I could (and do) spend hours poring over them and seeing how things have changed.

Umberto Tosi said...

I loved maps as a boy and still do. I pored over atlases for hours. I worry that with talking GPS devices, younger generations will lose not only their love of maps, but the ability to read them (in much the same way many of us don't memorize phone numbers anymore now that we have smart phones.) Then, there's Rupert Murdoch buying National Geographic and firing all of its experienced staff - ending its era as the bible of topographic image devotee. Anyway, thanks for a delightful post!

Dennis Hamley said...

Maps for ever, satnavs never.

Katherine Roberts said...

Maps are essential when building fantasy worlds. (Tip: draw them first, before you start writing and accidentally send your characters on a quest where the sun rises in the west, as I once did!)

madwippitt said...

Glad to see there are so many other map-lovers! :-)

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I do love the SatNav as well though. Can't drive through Glasgow without her. We call ours Linda Snell.

Susan Price said...

I will defend SatNavs to the teeth. Love them. They save so much faff and bother.

Have always maintained, though, that the A-Zs are probably the most useful series of books ever published, and I have quite a collection of them dating from pre-SatNav days.

And yes, there is an undeniable romance in spreading out a large map on the floor and studying the firths and mountain ranges, the rivers and villages. An accurate map is a beautiful piece of work.

Lydia Bennet said...

I'm just developing a sense of direction now at my advanced age, and a painful process it has been. I use google maps and plan routes out carefully and write them out in huge letters but so often the real places are totally different... not keen on maps per se, paper ones, I tend to have to turn them round and find out where I am as if I was standing in the road on the map before they make any sense. But I too love to see locations of books and enjoy the way writers keep the places alive however much they change afterwards.

Nick Green said...

To the teeth, Sue?!

Tolkien's maps bear testimony to Orlando Bloom fluffing his line as Legolas in The Two Towers. 'The uruks turned north east! They are taking the hobbits to Isengard.' Isengard at the time lay in almost the opposite direction.
That's why Satnav is better of course.