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Mapping the Edge [Paperback]

Sarah Dunant
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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July 7 2005

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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story that takes you right to the edge. Sept. 27 2001
Dunant is a real pro, subtly using every trick in the book to create a psychological novel of intense suspense, a novel that succeeds beautifully in keeping the reader involved, on edge, and dying to find out, first, what is happening to Anna, and second, what is real. The main character, Anna, resembles many other single women about to turn forty. She is a woman with whom most readers will empathize, even if they find her domestic history to be a bit unusual. As she yearns for love and excitement, reveals her vulnerabilities, and shares her fears, all of which play their part in the mystery that develops during her one week vacation in Italy, Dunant ratchets up the suspense--we can imagine and share Anna's plight because she reflects our own insecurities. The fact that she does not return to her loved ones on time, and is considered missing, coincides with our own worst fears, while the fact that neither we nor Anna are sure about what is real and what is fantasy parallels the neurotic daydreams and nightmares everyone shares.
Dunant tantalizes the reader by presenting two parallel explanations for what happens on Anna's vacation. As Anna tells us about her past relationships and the birth of her daughter Lily, now six years old, along with two other, very different relationships which may or may not be occurring in Italy while she is "missing," Dunant provides just enough information to allow the reader to jump to conclusions, often incorrect, about what's going on. At the same time, she increases the suspense by having Anna's friend Estella describe the chilling effects of Anna's absence on Lily and the rest of the household back in England.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and beautifully crafted... April 12 2002
Characterized by crisp phrasing and an impressive clarity of description, Dunant has fashioned a story that easily transcends the typical mystery-thriller genre. With a practiced and skillful hand, Dunant steers her readers through the intricacies of familial relationships and affairs of the heart.
At the core of it all is Anna, a single mother who adores her daughter, Lily, and has constructed a loving, if unconventional family with the help of close friends. In her almost obsessive love for Lily, the beautiful, independent Anna begins to fear the loss of herself in the constant fascination of the ever-changing Lily. So she takes a short holiday to Italy, there to renew neglected facets of her life in a tryst with a new lover, seeking the assurance that motherhood hasn't robbed her of the stimulation of physical and emotional passion she occasionally craves. Anticipating a short escape into the arms of pleasure, Anna's finely tuned intelligence senses something amiss in her personal Garden of Eden. Her brief but intense affair with the mysterious "Samuel" sends a shiver of uncertainty below the seemingly uncomplicated cloak of pleasure, while Lily remains safely ensconced at home in London with her mother's dearest friend, Estelle, and "surrogate" father, Paul. But pinpricks of anxiety also begin to intrude upon their purposefully domestic facade, segueing into the worst-case scenario when Anna fails to return as planned. For the child's sake, the adults maintain a united front, quietly enduring an increasing sense of impending tragedy.
Anna's motherhood is finely rendered, artfully exposed and vulnerable, her character the very essence of rapturous first-time motherhood, the pure joy of watching a child bloom, whose very existence is celebrated by those who surround her.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfying Psychological Thriller May 6 2001
When Anna goes to Florence, it is to redefine the edge of her world and her identity. When she fails to return in a timely way, the de facto family she has built around her child and herself, made up of friends, loved ones and the loved ones of loved ones begin to form new structures, and the edges between and amongst them and Anna begin to shift. As two parallel stories of Anna's time in Florence unravel, the reader is drawn forward,first compelled and disturbed by the nefarious scenario of a sociopathic kidnapper who spots the holes in Anna's self and fills them with a seductive kindess and a potentially murderous obsession -- and secondly the reader is given solace by the more palatable notion that Anna is with a lover with whom she is at the edge of a relationship neither of them were prepared for, but one which could transform them.
This parallel-universe unravelling while the family sits home awaiting a call or some news, decides whether the police should be called, and contemplates the future of Anna's daughter should the worst occur, would be enough to make this a read worth pursuing. The author, however, pushes the edge of the scenarios, and each trajectory takes such unexpected turns that as a reader you are forced to question the nature of relationships as they seem on the outside and as they ultimately reveal themselves.
This psychologically rich thriller is not an "easy read," in that it is written with the flow of the story rather than strict chronology at its' center, and the pacing is erratic. I found these two qualities, however, to be part of the delight of disorientation that only an exceptional writer can craft. I learned from this book that thrillers can be written in a solid literary tradition and still net the satisfaction of a "buzz" of adrenaline. I highly recommend it.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Confusing at first, but suspenseful until the end....
Overall, I was kept interested, however it was difficult getting used to the rhythm of the rotating chapters of the 3 different story lines - the 2 possible scenarios and the view... Read more
Published on May 27 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars HELD TO THE END
This book kept me reading and trying hard to figure out what in the world was going on. The dual scenarios kept me confused. I am still not sure. Read more
Published on April 24 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry to disagree but...
I was very disappointed with this book. While the "plot" may have be clever (and I'm not fully convinced about that), I found the book to be boring, highly repetivitive,... Read more
Published on Dec 13 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Thriller with a twist
This is one of those rare thrillers that does indeed keep you guessing till the end. I was pleasantly surprised with the various plot twists, they were both plausible and... Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2001 by J. Fercho
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Awesome book. A little weird to get use to at first but once you get the hang of the layout you won't put it down. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2001 by maria
4.0 out of 5 stars Silly Me!
Gosh! I actually thought that she underwent BOTH experiences while in Italy! After reading your thoughts, however, I realize my mistake! Wow. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2001 by ViAmber
1.0 out of 5 stars Fine writer, bad book
After reading 'Mapping the Edge', I think it is apparent that Sarah Dunant is a gifted writer. I believe that I may try to read one of her other books, possibly 'Fatlands', but I... Read more
Published on May 21 2001 by Andy Edie
3.0 out of 5 stars A thriller of sorts..
Anna is a single mother who deeply loves her daughter Lily. While she thrives on being a single mother, there is a void in her life, something she feels that she is missing. Read more
Published on May 2 2001 by Diane
4.0 out of 5 stars Bedtime readers, beware -- but it's worth it.
Anna Franklin's "strategy for revitalization" involves an impulsive trip to Florence, Italy where she expects to rendezvous with her recently acquired part-time lover. Read more
Published on April 21 2001 by P. A. Hogan
5.0 out of 5 stars Reveals the fine line between risk and safety
While there IS unquestionably a mystery to be solved in this book, I'd hate to classify this one as simply a "mystery" novel. Read more
Published on April 5 2001 by K. Corn
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