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on 20 May 2015
Fabulous, inspirational story! Loved it :)
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on 2 August 2002
What attracted me to this book was the prospect of reading about the development of the A-Z map. Maybe I didn't read between the lines of the front cover properly. Anyway, I didn't really expect to spend quite so long reading about Mrs P's parents. It is not until page 204 that Mrs P decides to write the A-Z, and when it happens there is not enough detail. I admit that Mrs P's early life is interesting but I found the emphasis rather poorly balanced considering the book's main selling point. It is also written in a rather confusing manner. Has Sarah Hartley not heard of chronological order? While it moves froward in time in a general manner the narrative constantly flits backwards and forwards a few years, often leaving one confused as to what exactly has happened. Massive potential here in the subject but could have been executed better.
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on 1 July 2010
I had to give up on reading this book. It was full of conjecture but all too often that is true of biographies, but what made it completely unreadable was the atrociously poor standard of English. It actually contained malapropisms! On every page there were passages which I can only describe as nonsense. Her father, as a young man, goes into a cafe where her mother, then a young girl, was waitressing. Her father noticed the the waitress is rather plain, and in the next sentence has proposed to her! It seems that the author made no attempt at all to think abuot what she was writing. It reads like a poor first draft. How on earth does such a poorly written book get published?

Don't waste your money, or your time, on this book.
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on 2 June 2005
This is an extraordinarily badly-written book, doing the subject no favours at all. There are countless factual and chronological errors (such as having a hospital full of war wounded men, two months before the war has begun). The life of 'Mrs P' is really not put into context at all, and we get very little idea of what she was actually like in her adult years. There is far too much about her parents and too little about the reception of the 'A-Z' and how it changed life in London.
What ought to have been a truly fascinating and revealing book is both irritating and disappointing
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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'?
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on 1 January 2009
I was very disappointed with this book. Clearly Ms Hartley fell in love with Mrs Pearsall's dysfunctional (but not actually very interesting) parents and spends most of the book talking about them. It takes the first 200 pages to get to the A to Z and then there is only a token discussion, if anything it shows how little research or passion the author has about mapmaking or the geography of London. The book requires significant editing and as other reviewers have noted it is very poorly structured. My best guess is that Ms H wrote a magazine length article in Chapter 24 and then got so fascinated with the family, she chose to write the remaining 30 odd chapters around it. Dont bother buying it.
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on 12 September 2008
This is an unusual book, in as much as the author seems more interested in writing an emotional story of a stressful childhood and eventual triumph rather than an biography. I agree with other reviewers - the chronology is confusing, and the accuracy of Phillis's autobiography on which it is based is questionable - her brother disputes some of the facts. We are told what her parents felt, although the author cannot possibly know. There is very little about the A-Z itself, and what role it played in in making London more accessible - it is intimated that all that was avilable before this were 1919 ordnance survey maps, but the illistration of the first A-Z cover states that it is larger than other similar street atlases. It is also difficult to know what Phillis's contribution was - we are told she walked the streets, and collected house numbers, but how did she deal with surveying all the new roads which had come into existance since 1919? This is a missed opportunity to cover an interesting subject.
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on 15 November 2010
Our book club chose this book because one of our number is a London bus fanatic and we thought he would find this account of mapping London streets particularly interesting. Unfortunately we realised when we read and discussed it that the book focused on a melodramatic fictionised account of Phylis Pearsall's life. We thought that the book was badly written - it is the author's first book and she was obviously learning her trade - as the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn so that there were accounts of conversations, thoughts and events that were obviously made up. The book badly needed a bibliography. However it gave our group the basis of a good discussion, looking particularly at life for women at that time. Not the best book we have read, but interesting nonetheless.
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on 27 April 2005
While I was intrigued by the life Ms. Pearsall seemingly led, the writing of this 'biography' really lets her down. Ms. Hartley jumps around in time so the reader is confused. Then, all of a sudden, in chapter 21 she uses the first person, as if quoting from a diary or an autobiography, when in fact she's apparently just jumping into Ms. Pearsall's skin for a random chapter. I find her approach irresponsible, as she is respresenting a real woman's life and takes great liberties with filling in the blanks. Finally, the writing itself is not very good, with several grammatical errors that undermine the credibility of the entire work.
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on 30 June 2010
Didn't finish this, I found it tedious. Not a lot about how she did the A-Z, more about her weird family.Some stuff did not ring true so I thought half of it was made up.
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