Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mrs. P's Journey

Now that I have toured England, Scotland and a bit of Wales with Bill Bryson, I am setting off on another journey. This one is with Phyllis Pearsall, the woman who created the A to Z map of London.

Phyllis was born in September 1906 to a Hungarian father and Irish mother. Her father was a self-absorbed, philandering bully. Her mother was a bit of a drama queen, had an artistic spirit, and stood up to her husband. He didn't like that at all. There were many domestic scenes with tears, shouting and slamming doors, and recriminations.

Not a happy childhood for Phyllis and her brother Tony who was a year older.

But there were other compensations as Sandor Gross, her father, was driven to make a success of himself and he did -- by starting a map-making business, The Geographica Company. Soon came wealth and privilege - travel, public schools (private in England), and fantastic gifts such as the baby elephant Phyllis received for her ninth birthday.

I am about 85 pages into the book. I must say that the author, Sarah Hartley, uses colorful language and a clever turn of phrase to bring Phyllis and her crazy family to life. But she also skips about in time and is a bit heavy on the foreshadowing. One minute I am with Phyllis as a ten-year-old in school and the next I am being told that 'such-and-such happened to her mother and would happen to Phyllis twenty-five years later.'

I am having a difficult time staying with the timeline of Phyllis's life.  I am ready to move on from her childhood and the stories of her parents' quarrels and infidelities. I will persevere because I adore maps and I feel that soon, when Phyllis takes over her father's company, I will learn just how she happened to draw up all of the 23,000 streets of London.

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