The Woman With The Map by Jan Casey
The novel starts in February 1974, when we are introduced to Joyce, the main character of the book. Then we go back to February 1941 during World War II. Joyce is 21 and busy with her job and her war work. She lives with her mum, sees a lot of her other relatives and socializes with her cousin and best friend Flo, who is a hairdresser.
The story moves back and forth between the two timelines. We see how Joyce is living alone in the 1970s, then we go back to her being a young girl during the War. She begins a job at the Civil Defence, where she has to plot bomb damage on a big map of London. She is now Senior Warden Cooper – “our woman with the map”.
We see as she meets Senior Regional Officer Derek Nicholls, who is 29 and they begin a relationship. Joyce and Flo begin taking lessons at Madame Beaupre’s School of Dance and we follow the family’s experience of being in Notting Hill, London during WWII.
It’s an interesting story, Joyce is a great character and I enjoyed learning about her life through the dual timelines. The background of the War in London feels very authentic and is very visual, so you can really understand how awful it was. (Sadly, it also made me think of the situation in Ukraine now too.) It is rather depressing at times though, as her personal losses mount up and life seems to treat her badly over and over again. It did feel at times a bit like one of those horror movies where the characters get picked off once by one.
It is well written in many ways and the characters are very well done, but just too much death and destruction for me to love it, I’m afraid.
6 out of 10