For readers with time for only one book to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I recommend The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, a novel by PS Duffy, and a sensitive examination of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The sources of PTSD—which was referred to at that time as “shell shock”—whether physical or psychological, were hotly debated within the military. Although it was highly destructive to its victims, it was often regarded as a sign of cowardice.
Duffy expertly characterizes the devastation that PTSD can wreak upon a man and his family. Angus MacGrath, a Nova Scotian sailor, is wounded in body and soul by trench warfare, while the carefree and adventurous Ebbin deteriorates into a fugue state.
The Cartographer of No Man’s Land focuses upon the far-reaching emotional cost of war, but also celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, which ensures that we—the descendents of these soldiers—remember their sacrifice.
The Cartographer of No Man’s Land
by PS Duffy
$22.00, paperback, 384 pp.
Penguin Canada, October 2013