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Mrs P's Journey
on 15 July 2009
Mrs P's Journey is the true story of how Mrs P, a courageous tenacious lady set about charting and mapping in detail geographical districts of London, giving birth to what we now know as A-Z maps.
The biographer based the material for this book on Mrs P's recorded reminiscences made in her later years. The result is a fascinating compulsive read. Starting with a graphic account of a quite privileged yet at times deprived background. The reader is left in no doubt that this could have been a great advantage but her relationship with her parents is portrayed as cold and distant. As a result she is left on her own at times in straightened circumstances to make her own way in the world.
Hence, her determination, tenacity and grit shine through. This is an amazing story achievement in spite of the odds. The way that Mrs P set about charting and recording focts for inclusion on the maps is a comment on the time. In the early 1920's map writers were exclusively male and no publishing house was prepared to even consider her work. Indeed, the section dealing with her attemps to be taken seriously as a map writer is striking.
If it had not been for the outbreak of the Second World War we may never have seen an A-Z map. Early on the War Office became aware that more detailed maps were required and Mrs P came into her own. From this date her work was valued and published. But, unfortunately due to enemy action some of the early maps quickly needed rewriting. Her research into a bomb-damaged Britain is in itself a fascinating glimpse of post-war London.
The final chapeters focus on the worldwide publication of A-Z maps and the fact that as Mrs P did not own the copyright; it was the publishing house not her that made a loft of money from the publications.
Overall this is a great book, which in my opinion could have had a better title. I close with the question 'who says that women cannot read maps'?