Last weekend, inspired by Book Club Girl’s Maisie Dobbs Read Along, I dove headfirst into Jacqueline Winspear’s series about a young woman psychologist/detective practicing in London circa 1929. Maisie Dobbs, the title volume in this series of seven (soon to be eight), introduces us to Maisie herself and provides an initial cozy type mystery for her to solve. But the majority of this volume is a flashback which delves more deeply in Maisie’s background, so the reader can see where she came from, how she has evolved, and what motivates her to study people and their predicaments. I thoroughly enjoyed Maisie’s intellectual rags to riches story – the serving girl who gets “taken up” by the Lady of the house, tutored by a friend of the family who is also a scholar/thinker, and then wins a place at Cambridge.
What I love most about Maisie is her determination, and her love of learning. She’s a girl who can “pinch herself three times” before she falls asleep to insure she awakens at 3:00 a.m. so she has time to sneak into the library and read, a girl who compares her feeling about books as “akin to the hunger she felt as food was put on the table at the end of the working day,” knowing that “she needed this sustenance as surely as her body needed its fuel.” She is, indeed, a girl after this ravenous reader’s own heart!
I don’t know too much about WWI, but Winspear has certainly done her research into the era. Maisie, who interrupted her studies at Cambridge to serve as a field nurse, has been deeply affected by the war. It informs her emotional life, and in this first mystery, was largely involved in the case she was “looking into.” Many of the soldiers suffered long-term emotional trauma – “shell shock”- and disfigurement which led to isolation and depression. Maisie holds a very special place in her heart for these young men, and we learn why in a rather surprising ending to the book, which reveals yet another aspect of Maisie’s life and character.
I’m eagerly anticipating Birds of A Feather, the second volume in the series, which is waiting at home for me right now, along with a nice hot cuppa tea.