The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon
One would be hard-pressed to find a more disingenuous title for a book, as Jean Godin was more gofer than mapmaker, the majority of the book has little to do with his wife, and “love, murder, and survival” are given remarkably short shrift. Godin, a minor member of a French scientific expedition to South America, met and married Isabel Graméson, daughter of a prominent colonial Spanish family. Isabel later endures unspeakable jungle horrors to reunite with her husband and end their twenty-year separation.
Whitaker’s forte seems to be the ability to arrive at his point tangentially, but whether this is his genius or his curse all depends on the mindset of the reader. For instance, Whitaker feels the need to recount the entire history of the Iberian Peninsula from the Middle Ages onward in order to finally reach the conclusion that Moorish ideas about women influenced the way Isabel was raised. The majority of the book is made up of these digressions, and those expecting a real-life thriller will probably give up long before the halfway point. This reader found the digressions interesting, however, and Isabel’s story (once Whitaker finally gets around to it) is both amazing and riveting.