Published 3 July 2014 by Avon
How far would you go for the one you love the most?
When Louise Fenton flies to Thailand to find her mother after the Boxing Day tsunami, she fears the worst when the only trace she can find is her mother’s distinctive bag. In the bag is a beautifully crafted atlas owned by travel journalist Claire Shreve, the mementos slipped in-between the pages charting her struggle to find her place in the world following a life-altering revelation, and a tumultuous love affair.
Louise treks across Thailand’s scarred landscape, exploring Claire’s atlas to try to make sense of the connection between this woman and the mother she is so desperate to find.
As devastated people are beginning to put their lives back together, Louise uncovers the secrets that nearly destroyed Claire and the man she loved – the same secrets her mother has been guarding all these years …
The Atlas of Us will take you on a moving and enthralling journey across the globe, and into the most intimate spaces in a relationship. And it will find its way into your heart.
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The Atlas of Us is Tracy Buchanan’s debut novel and my, what a debut it is. The story begins with Louise Fenton arriving in Thailand following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami to look for her estranged mother Nora. One of the first things she finds is her mother’s bag containing her passport plus an inscribed journal, the ‘Atlas of Us’, with notes and photographs belonging to another woman, a journalist called Claire Shreve. Whilst Louise continues her search for her mother and tries to work out why she would have such a treasured possession belonging to someone else, Claire’s story begins and the reader is taken on a journey travelling the world until eventually the link between Claire and Nora is revealed.
By the time I had finished this book, I felt as though I had been with Claire on her travels. From Exmoor to Australia, the author’s former career as a travel journalist certainly shone through and bought the story and places to life.
I remember watching the media coverage of the 2004 tsunami disaster and the images of the aftermath still haunt me to this day; I simply can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been. Although most of the story centres on Claire, the times spent with Louise and her young guide Sam, describe in detail the heartbreak and devastation of lives lost and the wreckage left behind.
This is very much a story of love, loss, regret…and also secrets. Claire Shreve was a complex character and the man she fell in love with, Milo James, even more so. If you believe that we all have a soul mate then Milo must surely be Claire’s true love. However their lives and their relationship are complicated and nothing can be taken for granted.
The main characters are believable and compelling. As the story centres so much on Claire and her life, I did feel that Louise was partly on the side-lines and I would have liked to have known more about her and her mother Nora. Louise’s continuing search appears briefly throughout, interrupting Claire’s story, and whilst her character too is very well written, she didn’t appear enough to make much of an impact. We know that she had a difficult relationship with her mother and I felt that both characters were interesting enough to deserve a bigger part of the story. Louise’s husband Will also makes (thankfully) brief appearances – he was just horrible and if I had been Louise he would certainly have been shown the exit door very quickly.
I really enjoyed this story; I found it difficult to put down and I look forward to hopefully reading more by Ms Buchanan. The drama and plot twists make this more than just a love story and the excellent characterisation and skilful plotting pull all the threads together to make for an engrossing read. There are themes and experiences in the book that are personal to the author and it is clearly written from the heart. I loved the gorgeous book cover – it suits the story perfectly.
Source: I purchased this book from Amazon. At the time of writing this review the Kindle version is currently only £1.49 – an absolute bargain for such an excellent book.
About the author:
Tracy Buchanan is a web journalist and producer who lives in Milton Keynes with her husband, their little girl and their one-eyed Jack Russell. Tracy travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, sating the wanderlust she developed while listening to her Sri Lankan grandparents’ childhood stories – the same wanderlust that now inspires her writing.