09 October 2008

The Mapmaker's Wife review by Denis Minev

The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon
by Robert Whitaker
Edition: Paperback
Availability: In Stock

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars TALE OF HISTORY, ADVENTURE, LOVE AND SCIENCESeptember 26, 2006
This book is actually a collection of different topics weaved together with the background of the love story between a lowly French scientist and an upperclass Ecuadorian lady. 

The book starts with a historical science controversy, between Cassini and Newton, regarding the actual shape of the earth. Cassini thought the world was elongated and Newton argued it was fat at the Equator. In order to reach a conclusion, a team is put together to make physical experiments at the Equator to define the shape of the Earth. That is when La Condamine and Louis Godin come in, two top French scientists, who embark on this years long trip. What should have lasted two years takes more than ten. A large group is put together to support the scientist in their journey. 

The author also describes in great detail the society into which they are initially welcomed in Ecuador. However difficulties with clergy and governors arise, culminating in the public lynching of the doctor of the expedition. 

All this occurs before we get to the story of Jean Godin and Isabel Grameson. Jean is the nephew of the scientist Louis Godin and Isabel is the daghter of a rich landowner in Ecuador. They begin their life together in Ecuador during the expedition and then decide to stay on for a while, but when Jean's business enterprises go bankrupt he decides to go back to France with his wife and now large family of four children. He heads through the Amazon, a dangerous journey, in the hopes of figuring out the way and then coming back to get his wife. For a number of reasons, once he is done and safely at the mouth of the Amazon, he does not go back. So, after her four children die of various diseases, Izabel gets tired of waiting and heads on her own journey across the Amazon. And that is when the story happens, which I will not ruin by telling here. 

This book mixed history, science, adventure and love quite well. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in South American history, history of science, love and adventure stories. It is a timeless classic, a story that enthralled people in the 18th century and continues to do so today.

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