Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Leaving Everything Most Loved
by Jacqueline Winspear
352 pages
Harper
March 2013

–cover by Andrew Davidson

Tomorrow, March 26th, another Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear is being released. I was fortunate enough to receive a proof copy from HarperCollins because I was supposed to have participated in book club girl’s BlogTalkRadio interview hosted by Stephanie Selah last week. Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to participate so I am happy to talk about the book in this post. I appreciate being on the list to be asked to contribute in some way as Ms. Winspear and her series featuring her sleuthing psychologist has become one of my favorite series to read. I am also grateful that Ms. Winspear has been so prolific in producing these novels the past few years. She is in Houston tomorrow night at a bookstore called Murder by the Book and I am sad that I simply cannot jaunt down in an M6 14/28 Tourer like Maisie has and meet Ms. Winspear and get my books signed.

This novel follows the formula for many of the previous books that I have enjoyed thus far featuring Maisie Dobbs. There is a murder that we find out about and Maisie is hired by the family to solve the mystery. She also works with the inimitable Detective Inspector Caldwell on the case. Maisie’s two employees, Billy and Sandra, also help her come to the right conclusion, as well as her spiritual advisors Dame Constance and Khan. One of the familiar topics discussed is mental illness due to trauma from World War I. A new topic in Leaving Everything Most Loved is that of the immigrant situation and how people adapt or not to new cultures and new people and new ideas. The world was changing after World War I, especially for women. Maisie herself embodies someone from one class of society that has moved up in the world due to both hard work and good fortune, so she can relate to some of the people she comes in contact with in her work more than the average woman of the day probably would have.

One of the ideas that I notice is often repeated in the books is that of Maisie’s openness and respect for all people and religions. This openness is reflected when she thinks to herself, “. . . she would offer her own words to any deity that might be listening.” The case involved Indian women who were brought with families back to England as nannies or governesses when the families were relocating home and then were often abandoned by these families when the children no longer needed them. Women such as these were at the mercy of society and some would have to become prostitutes to survive, while others were “lucky” enough to be taken in by charity and/or religious organizations where they were basically indentured servants. I thought well of how Maisie points out hypocrisy and duplicity when she told a young reverend, “You, with your twisted ideas of God, sicken me.”

As I have read all the Maisie books, I notice Ms. Winspear always has thoughtful and inspiring quotes by real poets or just inspiring wisdom from one of the characters. For example, Dame Constance asks Maisie about her plans to travel: “Do you seek to leave on a quest to find? Or do you wish to run from some element of life that is uncomfortable?” Rumi is also quoted: “Pilgramage to the place of the wise is to find escape from the flame of separateness.”
–depiction of Rumi from Wikipedia

Ms. Winspear’s titles also usually relate to the story better than average, I must say. I know that some authors have little input to their titles, but I think this is not the case in the Maisie books. Also, not to give anything away, I think the title Leaving Everything Most Loved presents a double entendre for most readers. Ms. Winspear reinforced the title thread in some places such as “leave everything they love” and “leaving everything you love most.” I will not say any more . . . but I will say that if you enjoy a good cozy mystery, Maisie books, and historical fiction, then you should read the tenth novel about Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.

New words in Leaving Everything Most Loved:
barathea-a fabric made of silk and wool or cotton and rayon, used especially for coats
bindi-a decorative dot worn in the middle of the forehead, especially by Hindu women
boffin-a scientist, especially one engaged in research
brogues-breeches
cadge-to get (food, money, etc.) by sponging or begging
charabanc-a large bus, typically used for sightseeing

Uniquely British turns of phrase in Leaving Everything Most Loved:
friendly hail-fellow-well-met-manner
right you are
nip-to the store, in the air
it stands to reason

–Elephant and Castle tube station designed by Leslie Green
Historical figures mentioned in Leaving Everything Most Loved:
Joseph Bazalgette-London sewer engineer
Elizabeth Garret Anderson-physician and feminist
Bhikaiji Rustam Cama-Indian independence activist
Leslie Green-underground station designer
Emmeline Pankhurst-political activist and suffragette
Sophia Duleep Singh-prominent suffragette
Ellen Wilkinson-one of the first women Members of Parliament
Places I wanted to know more about:
Addington Square
Camberwell
Romney Marsh

Thanks for the comments . . .