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Not at all the human drama I was expecting
on 3 June 2012
I love narrative non-fiction and picked this book up thinking I'd find another gem of a story about how the shape of the earth has come to be known, something along the lines of Robert Whitaker's The Mapmaker's Wife. The book advertises itself as "the dramatic tale of how India was mapped and Everest was named," but there is hardly any drama in it. The narrative barely focuses on the characters and stories of the men, Lambton and Everest, but rather goes into exhaustive detail on the day to day mapping of the Great Trigonometrical Survey. But while the book could have focused on the difficulties, tragedies, and triumphs of mapping India, the story behind the survey; it instead reads page after page of endless accounts of setting up the instruments, problems with the instruments, and attempts to solve the problems. I found that without at least a basic background in trigonometry and geography, it was difficult to understand many of the chapters. However, what narrative bits the author did include were quite interesting and would have made a fascinating book had they been developed.