Tag Archives: Maisie Dobbs

Review: Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

5th November 2012

Via Goodreads

*I received this from the publisher Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review.

From the back cover:

Early April 1933. To the costermongers of Covent Garden – sellers of fruits and vegetables on the London streets – Eddie Pettit was a gentle soul with a near-magical gift for working with horses. So who would want to kill him…and why?

Maisie remembers Eddie from life with her own costermonger father. The thought that someone may have purposefully harmed Eddie disturbs her deeply, and she takes on the case, heading into the factory of a press mogul, determined to find the truth while bridging the gap between the monied and the struggling working class.

As Maisie has recently come into money, this case hits at a particularly awkward time. As her dearest friend Priscilla points out, Maisie seems to feel guilty about the money, spending quite a lot on others in an effort to smooth over her discomfort but inadvertently causing discomfort for others. Her relationship with James Compton is also complicated by the money. Once James would pop over to her flat, but now that he occupies the family home in London, surrounded by servants, Maisie feels the responsibility and expectations that come along with a partnership with a titled man.

Eddie’s case both takes her away from those expectations and highlights them. Her investigation gives her some much-needed time away from James, but as Maisie investigates and discovers the death of another man connected with Eddie, it is apparent that Eddie was involved in something he didn’t understand, something Maisie doesn’t fully understand. And in her own adjustment to life after the war, life without the man she loved, and life without her mentor, she has been blinded to the potential for another war. The more she learns, the more she realizes she will have to reconsider her idea of justice.

In many ways, Elegy for Eddie is a transition, and for that reason, many are critical of this ninth book in the series. In fact, I was hesitant to read it, as my inclination is to want to see Maisie happy with James and settling into her new life. But that isn’t altogether realistic. One of the reasons I love Maisie is that she’s a thinker. Does she overthink things? Often. But her intentions are good, and she genuinely desires to figure out what she wants from life. Much of what has happened in her life has been dictated by need or by others’ good intentions, and watching her awareness of this and her desire to live a sincere, meaningful life kept me up much of the night after I finished reading. Regardless of her mistakes, she lives and works with intention. Her pain on discovering the nearness of war was heartbreaking and showed her vulnerability, and I instantly saw how it changed her.

Fans of mystery may not particularly like this novel, as there isn’t much of one. Instead, this is Winspear’s opportunity to highlight Maisie’s growth – however painful and uncomfortable as it is – and I am eager to see how she, James, and Priscilla move forward in the next book.

Check out other reviews, or add this to your shelf on Goodreads.

P.S. Check out my review of The Woman Who Died A Lot to see if you won the giveaway!

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

27th March 2012

*I bought this book on my Nook Color.

Bess Crawford is a nursing sister during World War I. Having been raised in a military family in India, Bess is not the typical Englishwoman. She is self assured and independent. Her father is highly respected in the forces but never had a son; thus, Bess has her parents’ full support (and worry) when she decides to join up. And rightly so. Bess is injured when the Britannic is attacked, and her bravery is immediately apparent as she helps to save others while herself dealing with a badly-broken arm.

While home recuperating, Bess is haunted by the dying wish of Arthur Graham. He wanted her to personally deliver a message to his family. Bess knows she should go, but it’s an emotional journey as Bess cared more than she should have about Arthur. So when she finds that Mrs. Graham and Arthur’s two brothers indifferent to his deathbed utterances, Bess finds she cannot simply leave, and the longer she stays, the more deeply she embroils herself in the family’s dark past and the Grahams’ willingness to keep those secrets buried.

I joined Jennifer from Book Club Girl in her Bess Crawford Readalong because I am so caught up in World War I. As you saw in last week’s post about Maisie Dobbs, it’s a time period that changed the world in many ways, so I couldn’t wait to get started with the story of Bess Crawford.

Also, I cannot help but discuss Maisie when I discuss Bess. I like them for two completely different reasons. Maisie must work hard for her position, and she has dealt with quite a lot in her young life. Though Bess comes from a much different background, the war equalizes. Bess is afforded no special treatment as the daughter of a high-ranking officer, and she doesn’t expect it. Neither is she a professional detective. Instead, it is the sense of duty instilled in Bess that causes her to poke and prod in order to find out the truth.

And prod she must. The Grahams have a secret they are intent on taking to their respective graves, and that secret has made them an unpleasant lot. Mrs. Graham buries her head in the sand and won’t really discuss the situation with Bess, but she poses leading questions, trying to ascertain if Bess knows anything about the family. There’s a mysterious brother, Peregrine, who is in a nearby asylum and who, during Bess’s stay, takes ill. The family seems, again, indifferent. The two remaining brothers, Timothy and Jonathan, are brusque to the point of rudeness, and when Bess is called on to help the local doctor whose patient has a bad case of shell shock, they make horrible comments insinuating the man needs to “deal with it” and get back to normal.

What’s so great about Bess? Bess is so easy to relate to. She isn’t a professional, and because of that, she isn’t always 100% sure of herself in terms of digging. She is certainly confident in herself and her abilities, but she also admits when she’s stumped/unsettled/needs help. She feels bound by duty, which is easy to understand in a family whose code is honor.

Why does she stay with the Grahams? By all rights, the Grahams are pretty miserable people to be around. They keep Bess around when they need her, and when she’s no longer useful, they give her the boot. As I mentioned, she stays because it’s her duty, but I think she also had strong feelings for Arthur. The more she’s around her family, the more she realizes she really didn’t know him at all, and it helps her to heal a bit.

Why should anyone start this series? Well, I’ll go ahead and admit that I quickly read every Bess Crawford book once I finished this one. I couldn’t stop, and the further into the series, the more you see the face of the Great War and how it affected everyone involved. Several of the books follow Bess to the front, and the writing is very evocative. Plus, the idea of “leave” is so interesting. Mostly when you think of war, you think of soldiers down in the trenches from start to finish. “Leave” seems an odd part of war, though I can certainly see why it was necessary. And in the latest Bess Crawford, I think there might be romance brewing down the line, which is something that the Maisie series gives out only sparingly.

One last thing to note: I’ve read on goodreads that many people are turned off the Maisie Dobbs series because of the sort of “otherworldliness” of Maisie’s training from Maurice, and it can be a bit much to take in – her intuition is much more literal than most mean the term, and her odd quirks seem to turn some readers off. I will say that Bess is much more accessible because she is amateur and also because her methods are more straightforward. So. If you aren’t a Maisie fan, it does not mean you won’t like Bess. Quite the opposite, really.

Any takers? Or have you read any Charles Todd before? Should I try the Ian Rutledge series?

Buy this book from Indiebound or for your Nook.

Series Obsession: Mad for Maisie

22nd March 2012

You guys know I have a tendency to gush about my favorite series, right? I mean, I wouldn’t leave you alone about Miss Silver and only haven’t blogged about her because my habit was getting pricey. Then there’s the Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series that I devoured. Then I discovered Bess Crawford, the series by Charles Todd (which I will tell you about next week), and I read all the books in that series in a weekend. So yeah. I love a good series.

I first discovered Maisie Dobbs in Target many moons ago. Now I know some people swear by the book selection at their Target, but I was never all that impressed with ours. Plus, if I’m going to buy a book, I’m going straight to Barnes & Noble, our only bookstore in this area. However, Target is one of those places I go when I need a pick-me-up. It’s so cheery. And what better way to put a bounce in your step than to buy a new book? That was probably 7 or 8 years ago, and I read Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear. The novel stuck with me because of Maisie.

Can I gush?

Maisie Dobbs is a grown-up Nancy Drew, except she’s not privileged like Nancy, though she does run around in a spiffy little MG, and honey, I loved me some Nancy Drew. We’re talking lights-out-read-under-the covers-in-the-dark kind of love. I’d pretend I was asleep when my mom came in and reminded me (knowing I was awake) that I would ruin my eyes reading in the dark. I loved Nancy because she was afraid of a lot, but she did what she had to do anyway.

That’s Maisie. Except instead of being scared of noises made by peacocks, Maisie’s dodging shrapnel. Let me explain…

Maisie goes to work as a domestic for Lady Rowan when she’s young because her mother has died, and her father isn’t bringing in all that much money. Maisie is devastated to leave her father, but she knows a job is necessary, and the Comptons have quite a library. Used to early hours, Maisie begins getting up very early to read in the library until the Comptons come in very early and catch her, tucked away with a book. Lady Rowan, spying the intellect in the young girl, puts her through school where Maisie excels until she joins up as a nursing sister during World War I. After these experiences, which leave her scarred both mentally and physically, Maisie returns to school and trains with Dr. Maurice Blanche, an eccentric man who mentors Maisie in psychology and the human spirit.

Can we also talk about my obsession with World War I?

There is something undeniably interesting about this time period, and I didn’t need the Downton Abbey craze to tell me that. In part, I think it’s because the role of women changed so much during and after this war that it left an indelible mark on society. Maisie is a perfect example of that: she starts her own business as “psychologist and investigator” – with a male assistant, Billy. Her cases inevitably lead both her and Billy back into their wartime experiences in an England still catching its breath after the atrocities of war. It’s an incredibly unique perspective.

Anyway, Jacqueline Winspear will be in Houston at Murder by the Book next Wednesday, and I so wish I could go. It starts at 6:30 p.m., the same time I tutor two men for the TOEFL test. If you’re anywhere near there, make sure you head over. The newest book Elegy for Eddie comes out next week as well, and I may have to suck in and spend full price for the hardback. Or, maybe it will be a bit less for the ebook. We. Shall. See.

In the meantime, if you have a Nook and want to read the first book in the series Maisie Dobbs, definitely let me know. We’ll do the whole share thing, and you can borrow it! This series doesn’t have to be read in order, but there is a definite character progression. If you want more info on each individual book, TLC Book Tours is having Maisie March, and there are tons of blogs participating with reviews for all the books. Check it out here at the TLC Books website.

Buy the books from Indiebound or for your Nook.