TENDER MAPS by Alice Maddicott | July Book of the Month Review

“As I started this journey, I had a single conviction: that being open to atmosphere was key to the creativity of being in our world. A place’s personality is mapped through our feelings. We create it, tenderly, together.”

Have you ever travelled to a place and felt somehow changed? Something about the atmosphere, the people, the culture — without actively taking it all in, you are still moved. Travel can elicit strong reactions, stirring you to feel at home in a place you’ve never been before, inspiring energy or joy, or provoking a feeling of peace. We wish there were a word for the phenomenon, but that’s why we are so grateful for Alice Maddicott’s Tender Maps, which explores this gut reaction, and how different places and their atmospheres can evoke such strong emotional reactions. We are thrilled to announce it as our July Book of the Month.

The book opens with the line, “The water moved yet was still,” as the author sits on a boat at a lake in Devon, at the tender age of nine years. Even from such an early age, the author remembers the deep sense of surrealness that came over her, and this opening line sums up the sensation: the author is still yet not still, she is moved without moving. This experience bloomed into a life-long passion for travel and introspection, as the author documents her travels around the world and the response each place rouses within her — from Sicily to Japan, from seventeenth century Paris to modern Tbsilsi.

Not only does Maddicott examine the effect of landscape upon person, but the effect of person upon landscape — and not necessarily in a physical way of cutting down trees and what have you, but that the landscape absorbs its vistors’ emotional experiences within it. She describes taking walks in her local forest, a place that used to inspire and energise her until, one day, she saw the place in a different way and couldn’t understand why. She describes how the forest had opened her up and she in turn had opened the forest up too, and now instead of being a mere passerby, she was a part of it. It sounds trippy, but think about it: have you ever changed the way you look at a place, and you can’t bring back how you used to feel towards it? Maybe you associate it with a certain memory, whether good or bad, that forever changed your emotional experience of the place. Maddicott suggests that the place also has a part to play in this. She discusses the symbiosis of person and place, two living things, taking each other in through osmosis. This experience in the forest led the author on a quest to truly understand the atmosphere of a place and learn the language of the earth.

Reading this book is like a religious experience, one that connects body and mind while also focusing on something else, something much more innate: spirituality. A literary travel memoir like no other, Tender Maps intertwines poetry and memory, physicality and spirituality in a way that is both humbling and uplifting.

A rich and beguiling work of literary travel memoir that nimbly tracks the wider contours of the world in terms of feeling, memory, introspection and the imagination.

Travis Elborough, author of Atlas of Vanishing Places

A heartfelt, thought-provoking meditation on the “personality of place” … It will enliven your senses and enrich your experience of the world around you.

Rebecca Lowe, author of The Slow Road to Tehran

Tender Maps is published by September Publishing
9781914613326 // HB // £19.99 // 6th July 2023

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