A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (A Maisie Dobbs Novel)

Welcome to the third week of March is Maisie Month! And welcome to the first day of discussing A Lesson in Secrets, Jacqueline Winspear‘s eighth novel featuring Maisie DobbsFor participating I have received a paperback copy of A Lesson in Secrets. This book’s paperback debut was on March 6th in the USA, and its UK hardback debut will be on March 26th. I also received a galley copy of Elegy for Eddie, the latest novel by Ms. Winspear, to be released on March 27th. 

I have read all of the Maisie books now, thanks to the read-along that was sponsored by book club girl last year. I had great fun discovering Maisie and actually read A Lesson in Secrets when it was first published in 2011. I enjoy these Maisie books so much and one of the many reasons is because I love historical fiction, love to learn about such trivia as the products the characters use, and love to research whatever subject I find interesting in the books, be it art history, geography, or the politics of the time.

–cover by Andrew Davidson (from www.jacquelinewinspear.com)

A Lesson in Secrets begins with Maisie being followed from Kent back to London as she drives her “crimson MG 14/40.” The car following her was a “black Armstrong Siddeley.” Well, there you go! I had to stop and look up these autos and find out more about them. Now I know some readers could care less about these details, but learning about things like these cars just enhances the story for me. And Ms. Winspear’s novels are filled with interesting and eclectic tidbits from the early-to-mid 20th century about England and the times.
–a crimson MG 14/40 from the late 1920’s

Maisie is called to help the British Secret Service in this particular novel, but gets to do so while posing as a professor in academia, exactly something Maisie would enjoy, as would I. You see, I think I enjoy and can relate to these novels because I can relate to Maisie’s interests, her independence, and her stubbornness. I know I would enjoy her private detective work (way more than her psychologist work). I worry that I am too independent at times (as does Maisie). And, of course, I can relate to her inability to step back and analyze her own life instead of trying to please and fix everyone else’s (to a degree). 

Maisie’s undercover work in Cambridge leads her to have to solve the murder of a controversial character. I was reminded of one of my favorite children’s book authors, Munro Leaf (The Story of Ferdinand), and was also reminded of Dr. Seuss, or Theodore Geisel, whose books reflected some of his political positions. World War II is seen as a “good war” since it was waged against someone as demented and despicable as Hitler, so the pacifist position in the buildup to this war could not have been popular. This pacifist position some held, as well as the popularity of the Nazi buildup, are two interesting subjects brought forth in A Lesson in Secrets

As usual, I have included some of the words I had to look up:

rumbled: discovered an illicit activity or its perpetrator, “… and I didn’t want them to know they’d been rumbled.”
comestibles: food, “a hamper of comestibles.”
inculcating: instilling (an attitude, idea, or habit) by persistent instruction, “I would see my role, ultimately, as one tasked with inculcating a sense of wonder …”
homburg: a man’s felt hat having a narrow curled brim and a tapered crown with a lengthwise indentation, “… and he carried a black homburg.”
spanner: wrench, “… a spanner in the works …”
conchie: conscientious objector, “Him? Good-for-nothing conchie.
aspic: a savory jelly, often made with meat stock, used as a garnish, or to contain pieces of food such as meat, seafood, or eggs, set in a mold, “We’ve some salmon in aspic, …”
cheongsam: a straight, close-fitting silk dress with a high neck, short sleeves, and a slit skirt, worn traditionally by Chinese and Indonesian women, “A woman dressed in a cheongsam stepped from the shadows …”
wushu: Chinese martial arts, “He wanted you to be introduced to wushu.”
wraith: a ghost or ghostlike image of someone, esp. one seen shortly before or after their death, “They said she was like a wraith at the funeral …”

And I have also included some fun phrases from the book: 

There, that’s put a firework under a few rumps.
welter of warmth
a short meander
Staid, but never boring.
She hoped McFarlane was in situ …
Well, that is a turnup for the books.

Shall I go on? Why yes, I think I shall. How about some historical figures?

–Oswald Mosley
–Hans Wilhelm Thost
–Adolph Hitler

I will let you look up these fellows, if you are so inclined!

–Oswald Mosley (from Wikipedia). Looks rather sinister, doesn’t he?

Some geographical spots around London and elsewhere mentioned:

–entrance to Burlington Arcade in 2005 (from Wikipedia)

Some sentences I highlighted as I read (I liked how they were written or liked the message they conveyed):

A man can stand anything, except a succession of ordinary days. 

Maisie walked along the Backs, watching a younger set larking around on punts.

Among the aristocracy and landed gentry, there was support for, indeed a fascination with, the tenets of fascism.

But then, secrets and lies always went together.

Of course, he looks very friendly, almost debonair, but he is a young man who has a fair bit of nasty bottled up inside him.

It would have been so easy for my father to take the King’s shilling, to offer to drive ambulances, for example.

She was not queuing with the students but had drawn back as if watching the opening salvo of a battle.

When you go to war, you wield a rifle, but you hope you never have to look into the face of the man whose life you take.

And as she made her way back to the office, she wondered, just for a moment, where, in time, she might see Richard Stratton. 


If you have not yet read A Lesson in Secrets, I hope you are intrigued and can’t wait to read it soon. If you have already read the novel, I hope you have enjoyed revisiting the eighth Maisie book.

Thank you to Trish from TLC Books for inviting me to participate in March is Maisie Month and to Danielle Plafsky from HarperCollins, as well as to Jennifer Hart (www.bookclubgirl.com). Of course, thank you to Jacqueline Winspear for creating such a great character and writing these wonderful mysteries.

To follow along with other bloggers’ reviews of all of the Maisie books, please go to http://bit.ly/marchmaisie!

For my previous two posts about Maisie Dobbs and about An Incomplete Revenge, please click HERE and HERE, respectively.

  4 comments for “A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (A Maisie Dobbs Novel)

  1. March 22, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    Wow, loved this post! The book really inspired you to do some research. I loved it, too. It was my first Maisie Dobbs, and I can’t wait to read more.

  2. March 23, 2012 at 3:54 AM

    Thanks for reading, Anna! Let me know how you like some of the other Maisie books. I have enjoyed them all, but some more than others. The next one is superb, in my opinion.

  3. March 24, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    Like you, I LOVE learning all the historical tidbits in books like this – they are such a treat!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I can’t wait to dig into this series myself …

  4. March 24, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Thanks, Heather. I enjoyed reading all of the posts on the tour. Next week should be fun. I enjoyed the new book, too. MDC

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