Mrs P’s Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map – Sarah Hartley

In which we are delighted and annoyed, but mostly annoyed.


I found Mrs P’s Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map by Sarah Hartley in a charity shop somewhere along the way. I must admit I had never heard of Phyllis Pearsall before, and neither had it really occurred to me that the A-Z is something that must have been «created» at some point – it seems like such a fixture – though on reflection it’s pretty obvious that it hasn’t always been around… This, of course, was motivation enough to make the book an interesting purchase.

«Remarkable story» is right, Phyllis Pearsall was some lady, and her life seems to have contained enough events to fill more than the one little volume this book is. However, I found Hartley’s style increasingly annoying, which did detract a lot from the pleasure of reading about Mrs. P. «Disorganised and haphazard» are words that come to mind. An example: Phyllis is living in Paris, having a hard time making ends meet, she hears of an English-language magazine and thinks «I could write for that», she sits at a table writing an article when she first lays eyes on Vladimir Nabokov, she goes to visit the magazine in question to ask if she may write for them and is told to submit an article which she sits down to do a few days later… The article she is writing when she first sees Nabokov. That is the exact order in which the events are related, and Nabokov is only mentioned in passing to surface again three pages later once the whole visiting-the-magazine-and-settling-down-to-write episode is over.

Maybe I’m easily annoyed. Whatever. I still decided to bring the book home with me once I’d finished rather than leave it, so I guess that means I’m planning on reading it again one day.