Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: Mrs P's Journey

Embroiled in the final edits for my novel The Hating Game (out as an e-book December 1; sign up for my web splash here), I've been shying away from fiction and towards non-fiction. As such, I turned to Mrs P's Journey which, shamefully, I've had for almost a year.

Here's the blurb (from Amazon):

Disproving the theory that women can't read maps, this is the story of Phyllis Pearsall, the eccentric British artist who single-handedly mapped London's A-Z and created a publishing phenomenon. Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG. The artist daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and an Irish Italian mother, her bizarre and often traumatic childhood did not restrain her from becoming one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires. After an unsatisfactory marriage, Phyllis, a 30-year-old divorcee, had to support herself and so became a portrait painter. It is doing this job and trying to find her patron's houses that Phyllis became increasingly frustrated at the lack of proper maps of London. Instead of just cursing the fact as many fellow Londoners probably did, Phyllis decided to do something about it. Without hesitation she covered London's 23,000 streets on foot during the course of one year, often leaving her Horseferry Road bedsit at dawn to do so. To publish the map, and in light of its enormous success, she set up her own company, The Geographer's Trust, which still publishes the London A-Z and that of every major British city.

Most Londoners are familiar with the trusty A-Z map. In my first weeks here, it proved invaluable as I shunted from one side of London to the other in my daily supply teaching duties. I have no idea how I ever would have tracked down some of the hidden-away schools I voyaged to without it!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this engaging story of Phyllis and her family. Her determination and ambition -- despite a pretty terrible childhood -- are incredible. The book reads like a work of fiction (and the author has taken certain liberties, of which she warns us) but it's a fascinating biography of talented, driven woman.


KarenG said...

This sounds wonderful! I love books like this it's going on my to-read list. Thanks for the review! BTW my husband is reading 24 Hours London at night, and keeps interrupting my own reading to read bits here and there. You really wrote such a cool little book there. Can't wait to go to London and try it out!

Jenny Beattie said...

This sounds right up my street *groan.* Sorry. No it sounds the sort of quirky non fiction I'll enjoy. Thanks for blogging about it.

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