The Mapmaker’s Wife – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

The Mapmaker's Wife book cover - portrait of Isabel Grameson on a compass background - small desert scene with sand and vicunas at the bottom

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The year is 1735. A decade-long expedition to South America is launched by a team of French scientists racing to measure the circumference of the earth and to reveal the mysteries of a little-known continent to a world hungry for discovery and knowledge. From this extraordinary journey arose an unlikely love between one scientist and a beautiful Peruvian noblewoman. Victims of a tangled web of international politics, Jean Godin and Isabel Grames’ destiny would ultimately unfold in the Amazon’s unforgiving jungles, and it would be Isabel’s quest to reunite with Jean after a calamitous twenty-year separation that would capture the imagination of all of eighteenth-century Europe. A remarkable testament to human endurance, female resourcefulness, and enduring love, Isabel Grames’ survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration.


The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker is definitely an interesting tale. However, the title and the description on the book jacket are a bit misleading. The book jacket says that the book is about Isabelle Godin, who follows her husband down the Amazon after 20 years of separation. The thing is, that portion of the story doesn’t even start to happen until after page 200.

The first part of the book tells the tale of the original trip that brought her husband, Jean Godin, to Ecuador. It’s well-written and held my attention. I found the information provided to be interesting and fascinating, it just doesn’t include a lot about Isabelle Godin until later in the book.

It’s still a very interesting tale about exploration, murder, intrigue and a side note of love and female ingenuity. If you’re interested in South American history and the history of the men who were attempting to plot out exactly how large our planet is and what constitutes a degree of latitude or longitude, this is definitely worth reading. If you were looking for more of a biography about Isabelle Godin and are not interested in the history and scientific discoveries, this book is not for you.

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