Author: Jacqueline Winspeare
Publisher: Penguin Group 2003
Format: Audiobook read by Rita Barrington
Earlier this year I read the latest book, A Dangerous Place, in this Maisie Hobbs series. It was the twelfth book in the author’s series, but I liked it so much that I suggested to one of my books clubs that we all read the first book. It wasn’t one of my best suggestions, but more about their thoughts later. Here’s what the book is about:
Maisie Dobbs: The Novel is the author’s introduction to the main character of the series, plus a little mystery. We learn that Maisie was an intelligent young girl living in London at the beginning of the twentieth century. It’s just she and her dad, and times were tough. At the age of thirteen Maisie had to go to work as a housemaid at the Belgravia Mansion. There, Lady Rowan takes an interest in Maisie when she discovers her reading in the library.
Lady Rowan oversees Maisie’s education which includes private lessons with Maurice Blanche, a noted private investigator and psychologist. Maisie will go on to study at the prestigious Girton College at Cambridge. Before she can complete her studies, World War I interferes. Maisie trains as a nurse and then is soon in France in a field hospital, caring for wounded soldiers.
The war, of course, has a big impact on Maisie’s life. All the deaths, the atrocious injuries she witnessed, the varied behavior of the injured men, a doctor she falls in love with, all cause Maisie to view life, and human nature, in a different way. The story then flashes forward to 1929.
Maisie had just opened her own private investigation business when her first client calls on her. The man is concerned about his wife. He suspects she is being unfaithful to him. As Maisie investigates, she learns of a private retreat where disfigured former soldiers have come together to live. It sounds like an excellent respite for these men, but Maisie suspects something isn’t right with the whole set-up. And that’s as far as I’m going to go. I don’t want to spoil the story for you.
For me, the book was interesting and I liked reading the background and development of young Maisie. I also liked being on the front lines during the war. But, I thought the plot was somewhat disjointed. Going back and forth between 1929 and Maisie’s earlier years was occasionally confusing. For me there was a big gap between the end of the war and 1929. There was no mention of what Maisie was doing in the ten years between the end of the war and starting her business in 1929.
Our book club members were somewhat split on their opinion on the novel. Most thought it was just okay. One member, a former nurse, really liked the battlefield-hospital section. Other members didn’t feel the mystery was much of a mystery. In the end I don’t believe I convinces anyone to read another Maisie Dobbs novel. As for myself, I’m not ready to give up. I’d like to go ahead and read the next book in the series.
Have you read this book or the series?
What do you think?