I can’t believe it was April 2017 when Abi Oliver’s A New Map of Love first arrived on my TBR and I would like to thank Abi for sending me a copy in return for (a very belated) review. Today is the paperback release of A New Map of Love and I’m delighted to be able to share my review at last. Even better, I have a smashing guest post from Abi that explains just how George, the protagonist in A New Map of Love, came about.
A New Map of Love is published by Pan Macmillan and is available for purchase here.
A New Map of Love
George Baxter has settled for a comfortable life, content as the years unfold predictably – until Win, his wife of twenty-six years, dies.
With his loyal dog Monty by his side, George throws himself into his work as an antiques dealer. His business is at the heart of the village and all sorts pass through the doors, each person in search of their own little piece of history.
When George meets local widow Sylvia Newsome, he imagines a different kind of future. But life has more revelations to offer him. Over the course of an English summer George uncovers some unexpected mysteries from his past, which could shape his tomorrows . . .
A Guest Post by Abi Oliver
‘Here he sat, George, Oswald Baxter, alone with his unfortunate initials and ridiculous dog. Alone with no compass in this explorer’s blizzard, all landmarks effaced…’
I wanted to write about mid-life. About the time when for a lot of us the paths we have walked for a decade or several begin to crumble and disintegrate under our feet. The map is torn up. Life can be disorientating and start to lose shape.
But I also wanted to write a book set in the loveliness of an English summer, about a country antique dealer such as my own father was in the 1960s.
Enter George Baxter.
Where do the characters we write about come from? Some have to be hacked out with a pick and shovel. Others march out as if from behind the curtains of a stage and demand to be central to the action. George Baxter was one of those. He is no one I know personally, yet he has elements of a number of men I have known while being insistently himself.
The novel opens with George, on a snowy day in February 1964, dashing away from his wife’s funeral because he just can’t face seeing everyone. Sitting on the snowy downs with his food-obsessed Bassett Hound, Monty, beside him, he toasts his dead wife, Win, a good woman who he feels deserved better than him.
Because, while finding no fault with Win, he has always craved more – more life and adventurousness, more in the way of love: just more.
A New Map of Love takes place through the long hot summer of George’s search for the kind of love he suspects exists but which he knows he has never had. George is a man of conventional assumptions. Lunch means sausages. Men and women meet and marry – and in a marriage, the woman does most of the emotional work.
But now he is on his own and the women he meets are not at all like the women he is used to… Kindhearted but hapless George is in for some surprises.
And George himself has a past, which is also about to supply further revelations…
It was a great pleasure writing A New Map of Love. In the past I have written about harder lives – wars and tragedies – and I wanted to write something happier, more querky and fun. There are moments in the book which are definitely a tribute to H.G Wells’s A History of Mr Polly another story in which general disgruntlement with life turns to joy. I love the combination of very singular English characters and the celebration of the landscape. I do hope some of you will enjoy it.
My review of A New Map of Love
Newly widowed George Baxter finds he is somewhat out of practice when it comes to women!
I so enjoyed this lovely book. Abi Oliver has created a world where the rhythms of life, nature and society hark back to a gentler age so that reading A New Map of Love feels like a nostalgic and wistful homecoming.
I thought the settings were wonderful. The 1960s are so well evoked through the musical references and the terrible dilemmas George has in balancing chivalry with emancipation. Vera in particular embodies the new spirit of the age whilst George really doesn’t have a clue which of the many women he encounters following Win’s death can be relied upon or who are genuine. I enjoyed meeting all the people between the pages of A New Map of Love. Yes, there are villains, but they are loveable rogues rather than psychotic murderers of so many books and I was frequently reminded of P. G Wodehouse as I read. I thought George was a triumph. He’s genuine, warm and not a little foolish so that I felt I wanted to protect him as he feels his way to a new life after Win. It makes such a change to read about those not still in their first flush of youth and to have them portrayed as real people who retain emotions and desires.
Abi Oliver has a super writing style so that there is great humour in A New Map of Love. It isn’t hilarious side splitting prose, but there’s a wry and familiar drollness and irony that is infectious and I found myself chuckling frequently. However, what I appreciated most was the attention to detail. The antiques of George’s world are vividly described so that I could picture them incredibly well, but for me it was the natural imagery that helped make A New Map of Love so beguiling. I felt transported back to the landscape of my youth.
If you’re a lover of hard boiled crime thrillers then Abi Oliver’s A New Map of Love is probably not for you. If, like me, you’re looking for a gentle book with loveable characters that will transport you to a more benign and serene era, then you’ll love it.
About Abi Oliver
Abi Oliver has spent much of her life in the Thames Valley. She studied at Oxford and London Universities, has worked for a charity, as a nurse, on Indian Railways and as a writer. She has also raised four children and lives in Purley-on-Thames.