Below the blurb, Bourke’s novel the consolation of maps is compared to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and the similarities are soon apparent.
Kenji, much like Nick, is swept up into a new world – a world of cartography, history, geography and love. The love of maps, art, Florence and the people we lose. He becomes captivated by his new employer, Theodora Appel; a beautiful, astute woman secretly struggling to manage her business and grieve her late lover. Appel is quickly established as a twenty-first century, female Gatsby. She is an enigma to many, deeply troubled and striving for a life already lost. Everything she does is to secure something she cannot have.
Bourke’s writing does not possess the hedonistic flare Fitzgerald mastered but he does write expertly about cartography; depicting the beauty of paper and vellum. He also manages to balance Kenji’s narrative with Appel’s. Kenji is the protagonist yet remains an outsider looking in.
I will admit though, if thought about too long, the plot could appear lacking. The climaxes are small and the resolution is simple. Yet, I accepted this – much like the end of Gatsby – because Bourke has written a literary work, not just a piece of fiction. the consolation of maps is a study of human nature – what brings us joy, brings us together, tears us apart and leaves us shells of ourselves. Ultimately, through Kenji’s story, Bourke demonstrates how the people we admire and loathe shape us into the individuals we become.