Top critical review
Very disappointing on many levels
on 16 September 2013
Badly named, badly described on the back cover, and badly edited. The author obviously actually wanted to write a book about the expedition which led to Isabel Godin (the "mapmaker's wife) meeting her husband, but instead either he or his publishers decided to pretend it was a book about her. Her story takes up at a stretch maybe 1/4 of the book; the rest is about the expedition. And there's no reason not to write a book about the expedition, so the reason to market it differently really makes no sense. There's also no reason not to write a book about Isabel Godin, and she deserves more than a book pretending to be about her when she is basically just thrown in for a little to justify the title. The book is also terribly edited--the author constantly goes off on little tangents which offer interesting facts about the rainforest or the history of the area but do not add to the subject at hand; they basically add up to a lot of interesting unrelated facts which do not tell us anything about either the expedition or Isabel. The author also has a bad habit of telling us what Isabel is thinking when she does feature, when he could have no idea what she was thinking about, and he seems constantly surprised that a woman could have any gumption at all; he does not treat the males in the story the same way (apparently she spent a lot of time thinking about love, being devoted to her husband, being frightened of animals, and worrying about her appearance more than her health after wandering alone through the jungle for weeks). He has an odd way of phrasing things--whites mating with Negroes, for example. And why he constantly uses the word Negro (he doesn't use the word Caucasian) is beyond me; this book is recent, not 100 years old. He chooses strange sources to quote, as well; for instance at one point he quotes a passage from one of the expedition members stating that African women in South America have such long, flexible breasts that they sling them over their shoulders to breastfeed their babies. The author never questions this, and what it has to do with the expedition or Isabel is beyond me--it just seems thrown in as a "wacky" "fact" to entertain. He also quotes sources about the weather in the area from 100 years after the events of the book and jumps back & forth in time when describing how hard it is to travel in the Amazon--I'm not sure how knowing what it's like now helps anyone understand what the people in the book went through (it seems like the modern stuff is yet more random facts thrown in because the author feels they are interesting). Other things which have relevance to the story are mentioned in passing--for instance, why does being short make you more likely to live longer in starvation mode? He states that it does, but not why. And yet other things are brought up without much thought--he states that Isabel's hair turned grey in the jungle, probably due to lack of vitamins, but since he keeps mentioning that she is middle-aged (apparently this also helped her survive her starved state, tho he never explains why that helped her and not her middle-aged brothers), did it not perhaps also happen because of her age? None of that is discussed, but there are lots of tangents about other people who survived being stranded in the elements in totally unrelated incidents.
So, to sum it all up, badly written, badly edited, and badly presented. If I pick up a book expecting to read about a woman who travelled through the Amazon, then I expect the *bulk* of the book to be about her, not a few pages at the end. I also don't expect a barrage of facts that have nothing to do with the subject at hand, whether it's Isabel Godin or the expedition that led to her marriage. Very disappointing on so many levels.