Maisie Dobbs takes place following World War I in London. It's an era that I didn't know much about, and so soaking in all of the atmosphere that Winspear so painstakingly researched was a revelation. Although I'm not much of a clotheshorse, I really enjoyed how the author described Maisie's clothes. My mother-in-law designs and makes antique clothes, and as I read this book, I thought of how much she would love this.
I like how Maisie is so intelligent, yet she doesn't have all the answers. The way she mimics the posture of the person with whom she is talking to make them more comfortable with her fascinated me. Her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche's psychological insights to Maisie, such as
"Never follow a story with a question, Maisie, not immediately. And remember to acknowledge the storyteller, for in some way even the messenger is affected by the story he brings,"are illuminating, and useful to the reader.
Maisie's straddling of two different classes of society- her father's working class and her benefactor's aristocratic one- makes for interesting conflict for her. Her father, a groom on the estate where Maisie is a maid, wants a better life for Maisie, yet fears losing her completely to her new life. Lady Rowan, her employer and benefactor, is an interesting character and I hope we get to see more of her in future books.
And in the end, it was Enid, Maisie's fellow maid, who was the greatest influence on Maisie. Her words to Maisie about her duty to help the boys in the war effort may have had the deepest effect on Maisie's life.
Maisie Dobbs starts in 1930, after Maisie has become a private investigator, and establishes the adult Maisie before taking us back to her childhood and the story of how Maisie got to where she is. It is a good technique because we are so invested in Maisie's adult life before we see how she got there.
I felt that the author's take on the horrors of war resonated deeply. So much of what happened to the men and women who fought in war is universal and timeless. While techniques of war have changed greatly since World War I, the awful effects of it have not. I liked seeing war from a female point of view.
But my favorite quote from the book has to do with reading, of course.
"The feeling inside that she experienced when she saw the books was akin to the hunger she felt as food was put on the table at the end of the working day. And she knew she needed this sustenance as surely as her body needed fuel."That just might be my new Facebook quote.
Since Maisie is a private investigator, there is a mystery to be solved, and mystery fans will be satisfied with this part of the story. But for me, the story of Maisie's life is what I felt most deeply about and I look forward to finding out more about her in the books to come.
Rating 4.5 of 5 stars