Book Review: ‘The Atlas of Us’ by Tracy Buchanan

Posted April 14, 2015 by thischickreads in review / 1 Comment


How far would you go for the one you love the most?

A stormy love affair. A secret. A discovery that changes everything …

Louise Fenton flies to a devastated Thailand to search for her mother, missing following the Boxing Day tsunami. The only trace she can find is her mother’s distinctive bag. Inside it is a beautifully crafted atlas belonging to a writer named Claire Shreve. But what is the connection between Claire and Louise’s missing mum, and can the atlas help Louise find her?

As Louise explores the notes and mementoes slipped between the pages of the atlas she learns the story of a life-changing revelation, a tragedy and a passionate love affair. And she uncovers a secret that nearly destroyed Claire and the man she loved – the same secret her mother has been guarding all these years …


*Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


In 2004 thousands of people in southern Asia have been killed in what’s believed to be the worst natural disaster in recent history. The Boxing day tsunami, shall be remembered as the beast who took innocent lives in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives, the Seychelles and some other countries. As it was reported in the news, the tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in 13 countries and shall be remembered as one of the saddest days in history.

I’ve always considered a truly brave act when authors turn to real life events as plots for their novels. While it takes a lot of research to stay faithful to the historical data, it also takes a lot of skill and understanding of human psyche and emotions, empathy and even courage to write a fiction novel about an event with such catastrophic dimensions. Creating a fiction story which relies on real life evens, and describes the emotion, pain and turmoil of the people involved in such catastrophes is indeed not an easy task.

What’s believed to be the worst natural disaster, that tsunami in 2004, is the background of ‘The Atlas of Us’ and focuses on Louise Fenton, who’s off to Thailand to find her mother, Nora. Soon after, a body is found but it’s identified as Claire Shrewe. However, Louise doesn’t even have the time to feel a slight relief her mother might be alive still, because along with the body, a passport and a book are found. The passport belonging to Louise’s mother, Nora and strange looking book with notes, drawings, pictures, with The Atlas of Us written on its cover. While hope is still present for Louise and she thinks her mother might still be alive, she’s haunted by this Atlas and the connection her mother has with Claire.

Intertwining two poignant stories, those of Claire and Louise, by going back and forth in time, Ms Buchanan creates a wonderful and layered story which will undoubtedly find its way to anyone’s heart. Through Claire and Louise’s voice and with the help of the Atlas, not only we find out more about their lives, but also about the connection between Nora and Claire.

Travelling through time and territory, Ms Buchanan creates a beautiful and well crafted story, and is surely one of the best debuts of 2014 I’ve read. As much as these two stories were complex, I didn’t have any problem in following them through time and space. However, some parts seemed too detailed and felt bit overwhelming, for my taste. The vivid descriptions are obviously one of Ms Buchanan’s strongest feats, however at times they seemed like burdening the story.

It’s obvious Ms Buchanan is an amazingly talented writer, whose words will touch people’s hearts. I’ll definitely be picking up every book she writes in the future and hope there will be many!


My rating: 8/10


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