Book Review: The Mapmaker’s Daughter – by Clare Marchant

The Mapmaker’s Daughter is a book of historical fiction that plays in England and partly in Holland in the 1580 time period.

Frieda Ortelius as a young girl in Holland when her parents are brutally killed by the Spanish as part of the Inquisition. The Catholics (the Spanish) were killing Protestants during that time, and one of the havens for Protestants was England, ruled then by Queen Elizabeth I.

Frieda escapes and makes a life for herself with her seafaring husband in London. She comes from a family of mapmakers, and she learns the trade and excels so much that she catches the attention of the Queen. During a time of war with the Spanish, Francis Drake was a privateer working for the English crown. Queen Elizabeth eventually commissions Frieda to create a detailed map of the south of England to help Drake in the fight against the Spanish.

This is all good historical fiction, and I learned a lot about the period and how the people suffered from the Inquisition and the tyranny of the Spanish.

However, interwoven between the chapters about Frieda’s life and story is another story in the present day: Robin Willoughby is a thirty-six-year-old woman who works in her father’s antique map store when they find a blood-stained map they cannot identify. Robin goes on a quest to find out. However, along with Robin comes Robin’s husband Nate, who vanished seven years before during a solo around the world sailing race. The Vendée Globe is the greatest sailing race round the world, solo, non-stop and without assistance, and it is also by far the most dangerous of all sailing adventures.

Throughout the entire book, Robin pines after Nate and the pain she goes through even after seven years fills the chapters in this book. At first I thought there must be some plot twist that would explain the presence of Nate as a significant protagonist in this story, but sadly, there wasn’t any. While I am sure his death was tragic, and while I am sure his wife suffered, none of that had anything to do with this story and it simply resulted in more words on the pages that didn’t move anything along.

As a matter of my opinion, the author could have left Robin out of the book altogether without loss of impact. Of course, the book would have only been half as long.

But as the Germans like to say: In der Kürze liegt die Würze.

All in all, an interesting historical novel with way, way, way too much fluff that did nothing but water it down and make it longer.



By the way, if you are interested in learning more about the Vendée Globe, there are several books that tell a riveting story:

Godforsaken Sea: The True Story of a Race Through the World’s Most Dangerous Waters

I read Godforsaken Sea many years ago before I had started doing my book reviews, so I can’t show you that. But it’s an amazing read about the 1996-97 race. Another book about the same race is Alone: The True Story of the Man Who Fought the Sharks, Waves, and Weather of the South Atlantic – by Michael Calvin. I have not yet read Alone.

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