Monday 29 July 2013

Book Review: A New Map of the Universe by Annabel Smith

Grace dreams of designing a house for her lover, Michael, a place where they can begin their life together. But before she can step into her future with Michael, Grace must journey into the past to confront its crippling legacy of silence and secrets.

This lyrical, engaging novel spans two generations and both hemispheres as Grace navigates her new map of the universe. It is a story about grief and passion, architecture and astronomy, but above all it is a story about finding yourself.

I read Annabel's Smith literary novel A New Map of the Universe as part of the AWW2013 Challenge. I came across a review of this book from last year's AWW Challenge and it sounded like a beautiful piece of writing. I decided to check it out for myself.

This novel is literary fiction at its finest. The story is entirely character-driven; the heart of the narrative is the emotions of each of the main characters - Grace, Peter and Madeleine. But that doesn't mean there is no plot. Quite the contrary - a lot happens as this story spans two generations and two countries. Smith writes with brevity and lyricalism to highlight the major events that advance the plot forwards, while never losing touch with the most important element - the characters.

A New Map of the Universe follows Grace as she attempts to understand her life and the people who have influenced her - namely her parents Peter and Madeleine. Like the blurb says, it is a story of grief and passion. There is a lot of loss, sadness and regret in the story and for that reason it was very emotional to read. But there is also a lot of love, hope and awakening for the characters.

The novel is broken up into four parts - two from Grace's point of view, and one each from her parents'. I liked this as it enabled me to see deeply into Grace's family history, to see how lives can be forever changed by the things that are left unsaid. It reminded me that we are all a product of our personal family history, of the way our parents were treated by their parents and by the heartaches that hurt those we're close to.

A New Map of the Universe is a touching story about family legacy and the long-ago secrets that threaten to hold us back. Told in sensual language, the narrative explores the depth of human relationships and the impact grief can have on generations. It's a beautiful novel.  


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