Maisie Dobbs was the first novel in the series written by Jacqueline Winspear. Next was Birds of a Feather. I have finished the third novel already, somewhat ahead of the read-a-long, but I haven’t written about Maisie until now. I am simply enjoying these mysteries set in London in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Also included are flashbacks to Maisie’s childhood in 1913, as well as flashbacks to her time as a nurse in World War I. These “cozy” mysteries are just what I needed: another British author and another rising above the social class hero (à la Bernard Cornwell and Richard Sharpe). I decided to leave Sharpe for a while and return to him later.
Why do I like these Maisie novels? There are numerous reasons:
–I enjoy historical fiction. Maisie Dobbs is set before, during, and after World War I in Britain and France, mainly in London. This is a time period that was less familiar to me than World War II. Most of the information I know about World War I specifically is from reading Hemingway, as well as biographies and other books related to Hemingway. I enjoyed learning more about this time period. I learned more about how soldiers were treated afterwards and some of the psychological effects of war. I also have looked up more information on Passchendaele.
–I enjoy mysteries. Mystery is just one of the genres I already appreciate. Previously I didn’t know what a “cozy” mystery was, even though I have been reading them for a long time. I am not sure reading Maisie Dobbs will change my mystery reading habits in general, but I know I will read the rest of the Maisie Dobbs books in the near future. A cozy mystery is one where the crime happens off camera and the detective is not a member of the police force and is dismissed by the authorities.
–I have enjoyed actually getting a map of London out and following Maisie’s path on some of her walkings about the town. On my one and only visit to London thus far, I am happy to know I walked on some of the same paths at different times during that short visit. I walked around Belgravia, specifically Wilton Crescent, trying to find a historic pub, so I have a sense of Ebury Place. I perused the book sale near Waterloo Bridge. Having visited the city before reading the novel added a dimension I hadn’t expected. I can’t wait to return and perhaps visit some of Maisie’s other haunts.
–I am also learning the geography of the island. Maisie often travels to Kent and to Sussex, specifically Hastings. I am familiar with Hastings from watching Foyle’s War, set in World War II. Other travels by Maisie in the third novel, Pardonable Lies, have been to Paris (always a favorite), Reims (where I actually have also visited), and Biarritz.
–I have learned some more new vocabulary:
- abbatoir n. a slaughterhouse
- anaglypta n. a type of thick, embossed wallpaper (see more)
- charabanc n. a large bus, typically used for sightseeing.
- eiderdown n. the down of the eider duck, used as stuffing for quilts and pillows.
- kepi n. a French military cap with a flat circular top and a visor.
–French kepi (from Wikipedia)
- privet n. any of several shrubs of the genus Ligustrum, especially L. vulgare or L. ovalifolium, having opposite leaves and clusters of white flowers and widely used for hedges.
- tisane n. an herbal infusion or similar preparation drunk as a beverage or for its mildly medicinal effect.
–I have learned about some British products both from the past and the present:
- Hovis bread
- Eccles cake
- Lloyd Loom furniture
- Old Holborn tobacco
- Lee Enfield rifle
- Harvey Nichols department store
–I enjoy how Ms. Winspear infuses lessons and morality in a good way in her books. Maisie was an apprentice to a psychologist/Renaissance man. She practices meditation and yoga and, as a private detective, tries to bring emotional closure to her cases as well . . .
So, I recommend the Maisie Dobbs mysteries.