The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy is about WWI, the war to stop all wars. A quick reference to Homer’s The Iliad, reminds me of that foolish notion. Angus, a Scotsman from Nova Scotia and a cartographer has gone off to the front to find his brother-in-law, Ebbin. Of course things change. Angus isn’t in the back making maps; instead he becomes an officer and is sent to the front. Ebbin’s company has been massacred. Only his dog tags are found, both of them, which is curious since one is always left with the body. So there’s hope or so Angus believes till he finds him alive with someone else’s dog tags. Ebbin’s metamorphous is equaled on the other side of the pond in Snag Harbor, Nova Scotia where news of Ebbin’s death or whatever is met with skepticism. Ebbin’s nephew, Angus’s son is learning about metamorphic insects and about séances which will allow his mother, Ebbin’s sister to speak to him. The problem is Angus can’t just come out with his discovery because it would mean Ebbin is a deserter and would be shot. And Angus has lost track of Ebbin’s whereabouts.
The story is about both sides of war, those who fight and those who wait and/or mourn. The Grandfather is a pacifist, he lost his brother in a war, his son is one; he is the soul of this book, IMHO an anti-war book and a good one. The classic father and son story of growing up and finally understanding.