Sarah Dunant's Mapping the Edge
explores the best of two worlds, offering readers a suspenseful, eerie plot and a delicately nuanced exploration of the kinds of prickly, challenging ideas that, sadly, usually lie outside the province of the traditional thriller.
When Anna decides to take an impromptu trip to Italy, she packs her bag, leaves her 6-year-old daughter, Lily, at home with close friends, and steps onto the plane. She's always been a woman of action, and her personal and professional lives have been filled to overflowing recently. So her friends Paul and Estella think nothing of the jaunt--it's a well-deserved break, a weekend for psychic refreshment, a brief step outside reality.
But a disappearance? When Anna fails to return, Paul and Estella make excuses, to themselves and to Lily. When the weekend stretches toward a week, the possibility of her permanent absence becomes hauntingly real. Dunant takes that absence and weaves together a pair of possible "explanations," playing out alternating scenarios of seduction (Anna in the throes of a disturbingly passionate, illicit affair) and abduction (Anna in the grasp of a stranger whose cordiality turns gradually to madness).
The narratives are both twinned and twinning, less separate alternative accounts than a dialogue, with moments, objects, and phrases that serve as uncanny mirrors between the two. Dunant is indeed a skilled mapmaker--her novel maps the edge of the self, its boundaries that so often go unquestioned. Anna's sojourn in Italy is an excavation of the threat of being defined by one's relationship to others and the temptation to redefine oneself beyond the restrictions of conventional expectation, no matter how seductive, how forceful, that convention. --Kelly Flynn
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From Publishers Weekly
What happened to Anna Franklin? That's the question posed in Dunant's latest novel, detailing five days in the life of those close to an English journalist who heads off on a short holiday and doesn't return when she is expected. Waiting anxiously at home are Anna's six-year-old daughter, Lily; Lily's part-time surrogate father, Paul; and Estella, Anna's best friend and Lily's godmother, who has flown in from Amsterdam. Caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty, Anna's makeshift family lives from moment to moment, waiting for the phone to ring, the door to openDhoping beyond hope for a simple explanation of Anna's absence. Two parallel "what if" stories run the course of the novel, tangling the reader in a web of suspense and confusion. Is Anna depressed by Lily's growing independence and feeling a need to reconnect with the woman she used to be before she became a mother? Or is she the victim of a tragic obsession gone awry, kidnapped by a psychopath with no feelings of remorse? While either story could accurately explain Anna's disappearance, each version shows a different side of the missing woman and the motivations behind her sudden trip. The suspense is good enough to keep the pages turning and the secondary characters' reactions lend credibility to the plot line; however, the ambiguous conclusion reads more like a cop-out than a subtle send-off. Most interesting is the convincing portrayal of Anna's alternative family and their quietly unconventional 21st-century living arrangements. Though she is known as a writer of sophisticated thrillers (Transgressions; Under My Skin), Dunant here leans gracefully toward straight literary fiction. Agent, Claire Alexander at Aitken & Stone. (Feb. 23)
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