I love it when you recommend books. I jot the author and title down in a notebook I keep for just these books to be read. I usually include who or where the recommendation comes from; a book blog, a newspaper or magazine review, NPR, PBS – or, most importantly, one of you.
Maisie Dobbs came to my attention through several of you, first Marilyn Ritter, then Dee Ready, and soon word seemed to spread of Maisie, like a daisy in the garden scattering her seeds. I finally picked up Jacqueline Winspear’s first novel of the series a few weeks ago. I know I want to follow Maisie through the rest of the series as well.
Maisie Dobbs is a private investigator/psychologist whose story is one of a poor girl who does well, initially through the help of benefactors and through her own gifts of intelligence and kindness. It is set primarily in post WWI England with flashbacks to Maisie childhood and her experience as a nurse in the war.
After Maisie’s mother dies, Frankie, her father, a well liked chap who makes a meager living as a costermonger*, finds Maisie a job in service at the estate of Lord Julian and Lady Rowan Compton. Maisie, a young girl at the time, does her fair share of the work, but, she sets her internal clock for the wee hours of the morning so that she can sneak into the Compton library to read as many as the books as she can, teaching herself Latin along the way.
One night, Lady Julian, who has returned home very late with Lord Julian and Dr. Maurice Blanche, slips into the library and discovers the young Maisie there. She soon realizes Maisie’s aptitude and arranges for Dr. Blanche to tutor her in between her household chores. Eventually higher education is arranged, until the outbreak of WWI, when Maisie become a nurse.
The book is about more than Maisie’s lessons, work and wartime service, however. Much more. It is about the aftermath of World War I and it is about compassion, especially when it comes to wartime disfigurement, and it is about the unfortunate manipulation of veterans. Maisie Dobbs is a mystery with a soul.
Maisie’s first client, which is how the book begins, is a man who suspects his wife is having an affair. Maisie takes on the case, following the young woman to a cemetery and watches her put a simple bouquet on the grave of a man with only a first name. Maisie soon discovers that there are several other soldiers of the war buried there, all in simple graves, all without a surname. Maisie suspects far more is going on – and it is. When Lady Rowan’s son decides to move into a home called The Retreat for veterans, Maisie steps up her efforts to discover what is really going on.
Maisie Dobbs was a quick read that held my interest and left me wanting to learn more about post WWI – and more about Maisie Dobbs.
I look forward to reading the next Maisie Dobbs book, and the next; and to following her about she solves crimes, and other life mysteries.
Thank you, Dee and Marilyn, for introducing me to Jacqueline Winspear and Miss Maisie Dobbs.
* I didn’t know what a costermonger was and so, Mr. Google led me to Ms Wikipedia where I learned that a costermonger is someone who sells fruits and vegetable from a cart. Common pre-WWI, I imagine them less so now, though I do remember a street vendor from my early childhood when we still lived in Chicago.