Friday, August 24, 2007

Maisie Dobbs

Three big cheers to my Mum who not only recommended this book by Jacqueline Winspearto me, but then sent a copy of it winging its way across the 4000km of desert between us. I have wanted to read Maisie Dobbs for a while but it is one of those novels I have never quite got around to. I am glad my Mum encouraged me to read it. I am saving the next one Birds of a Feather, which I already have a copy of, until Cosy Mystery September! Though, technically, here in Australia it should be starting to get slightly warmer then; so I don’t know about the term ‘cosy’.

The novel passes between Maisie’s youth and the ‘present day’ of the late 1920s. In the past…..Maisie’s mother dies and her father Frankie is no longer able to take care of her. So, despite having won a scholarship to go on to a Grammar School, Maisie enters the service of the Comptons. To fulfil her desire for an education, Maisie takes to rising very early in the morning and reading books from the Comptons’ study before she starts her daily chores. One morning she is ‘discovered’ when they return late from a dinner party. They decide to allow her to continue to read from their library and even find her a tutor Maurice Blanche for a bi-weekly lesson. The result is that Maisie is able to go on to study at Cambridge (which the Comptons pay for). When the First World War comes she takes a leave of absence from her studies and becomes a nurse; going to France to help the injured. At this time, she falls in love with an English doctor Simon.

Fast-forward a decade and Maisie has become a psychologist/sleuth. A client comes to her and asks her the age old question: is his wife, Celia, having an affair? Maisie follows her to find out. She discover that Celia is not; she is regularly visiting the grave of an old friend Vincent who committed suicide after being unable to come to terms with his war injuries. What puzzles Maisie is that his grave only bears his first name. After some investigations, she discovers he died while residing at ‘The Retreat’. A home established by Major Jenkins for men with unseemly facial war injuries. It emerges that he is not the only man who died in this manner while a resident there; it seems Maisie has a mystery to solve!

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