Saturday, December 08, 2018

When I was young all my favourite books had maps

I could say that the maps in my beloved Lone Pine Club stories by Malcolm Saville made me look down on books that did not have maps on their endpapers, but I suspect their importance was even greater than that. It was the maps that attracted me to Malcolm Saville in the first place.

But I was not alone in seeing maps as essential to adventure stories. When Richard Jefferies’ Bevis the Story of a Boy, originally published as a three-volume adult novel, was reinvented as a children’s classic in 1932, the publisher Jonathan Cape pulled out all the stops. It was given illustrations by E.H. Shepard and a map. That map was drawn by an 11-year-old David Garnett.

These reflections come from a reading an article by Jonathan Crowe where he reviews The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, which is edited by Huw Lewis-Jones.

Ever since Tolkien, fantasy writers have felt that their books need maps, but Crowe assures us that the “bog-standard fantasy maps from adult epic fantasy series” aren’t well represented in the book: “frankly, the maps here are much better”.

That is good to hear, though sometimes those maps can spring back to life. When the floods of 2014 struck, I remembered Richard Cowper’s The Road to Corlay:
The map on the endpapers … shows that much of the West Country has become the Somersea. And some present-day characters who are in touch with this future by some form of clairvoyance finally make sense of it: 
On the way they passed through the Outpatients' waiting room. One wall was decorated with a large scale relief map of the whole area surrounding Taunton. Ian walked over to it and contemplated it thoughtfully. "Look here," he said. "Just suppose this area was all flooded, the Quantocks would be an island and so would the Blackdown Hills."
But then Cowper’s map was always more interesting than bog-standard fantasy. And Saville's were studded with incident and human life,

Incidentally, I developed a passion for a rather ordinary children’s book by Ann Shead called The Jago Secret simply because it has a family tree on the endpapers. But that is a whole new subject.

1 comment:

Tim Holyoake said...

In a similar vein, one of my favourite books as a teenager had a coded letter in the endpages - Alan Garner's Red Shift.