Tangled Web UK Review June 1999
File Updated: 31/03/00
Mapping the Edge Mapping the Edge by Sarah Dunant
pbk out May 99 (Virago) at 10.99
Mapping The Edge is a psychological thriller set mainly in Florence where thirty nine year old Anna Franklin has disappeared without giving any indication as to when she might be back. The situation is particularly tense as she has left behind her six-year-old daughter, Lily on whom she dotes. It is left therefore to her best friends Estella and Paul and Mike, a gay couple and surrogate fathers to Lilly, to try to establish why Anna has gone.
The book is divided into two sections; "Home" which details what is happening to those who wait for Anna and "Away" where Anna's story unfolds. By answering a lonely-hearts column advertisement, albeit for research purposes, Anna meets Samuel. There are certainly a range of interesting developments in their relationship. However, the book is not simply about Anna fulfilling her sexual and emotional fantasies as on a different level, she encounters a man who decides that she resembles his late wife. So, in effect, there are three tales being told at once and at times the two 'Anna' stories almost merge, making compelling reading.
It was refreshing to read a novel which replaced the traditional nuclear family with a more eclectic mix of people whilst, at the same time, making no big deal of it. Paul and Mike were ordinary blokes, Estella was an ordinary woman, but all were united in their quest to both find Anna and to look after Lily. Anna is a complete character who is clearly fulfilled by Lily but is not ready to accept that her life with men is over. It's a book with that unmistakable self-deprecating, self-analysis of the protagonist, found often in psychological thrillers but unlike in some novels, Anna is very likeable. The majority of characters are endearing and the book is a very good read.
I'm a big fan of Sarah Dunant and Mapping The Edge certainly holds up to my current favourite which is still Fatlands. The reader's attention is held right up until the last page and even then there is room for speculation as to what might happen in the future. It's an excellent read and definitely unpredictable.

( Lynda Ross )