A Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Sometimes you finally get around to starting a series that you've been meaning to pick up forever. Sometimes you realize that you're glad you waited because the present seems to be the perfect time. With the bustle (and stress!) of the holidays, I prefer something that isn't as demanding (The Marriage Plot) when I actually get to take small breaks to read.
Ok, so I'll admit I was a bit hesitant to start the novel when I found numerous comparisons to Agatha Christie's style. However, I didn't want to completely dismiss it because most reviews were quite positive. I'm really so happy to say that I was very much impressed with the overall story and can't wait to start the next book.
When the novel begins, we watch as Maisie proudly opens her own practice as a detective in London. Her first case, which appears to be an open and shut sort of infidelity, sheds light on to darker subjects leading Maisie to a much larger investigation.
The novel introduces the audience to our heroine, Maisie Dobbs, shifting from the present to past. The reader views Maisie as a bright, young girl, eagerly indulging in her studies, building the foundation of her career, before moving forward, years later, when men and women, like Maisie, have begun to rebuild their lives after the Great War. Set in London in the teens and mid 1920s, Winspear provides a close look at some pretty major shifts in society. Wealthy families begin to lose staff with the increase of higher paying jobs available in larger cities. (Honestly, when I first started I felt like I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey.) Once WWI begins to require more men at the front, women begin to pour into factories taking jobs that were previously unattainable. Despite the numerous works that feature this content, I felt that Winspear's voices were largely different, featuring a cast of characters that were all very positive and tenacious against such a harsh setting.
I was especially impressed with words from the author at the end of the novel. Her explanations of the Great War and her own family's struggles during this period were quite fascinating, as well as informative. As I feel that many war novels I've read have centered around WWII, there was so much that I was not aware of, and discovered with subsequent research, about this period in Europe.
I will admit that there were moments at the start of the novel where the writing really tested my patience. Initially, I believed that Winspear was a little long-winded and a little too forthcoming with commentary. I still believe that it wouldn't hurt to give the readers a bit more credit. As the novel progressed, however, I started to develop a certain amount of fondness for many of the characters and was able to move beyond other annoyances. And as much as I really enjoyed getting to know the characters that make up these novels, I'll be much more excited to see a bit more mystery in those that follow.
Interestingly enough, whilst searching for an image to attach to this little post, I stumbled upon Winspear's own Maisie Dobbs blog, and found this:
Mariana by Monica Dickens, cited as one of the author's favorites. I just happened to pick this copy up (my very first Persephone classic!) at a used store in Asheville, NC, a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, I'll be diving into this one come January.
If you enjoy history, and a little mystery*, I really recommend this book.