Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Maisie Dobbs

Summary: Meet Maisie Dobbs, the clever and resourceful detective of Jacqueline Winspear's marvelous and inspired debut

Hailed by NPR’s Fresh Air as part Testament of Youth, part Dorothy Sayers, and part Upstairs, Downstairs, this astonishing debut has already won fans from coast to coast and is poised to add Maisie Dobbs to the ranks of literature’s favorite sleuths.

Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind. -- Penguin

A few years ago, my book club read MAISIE DOBBS by Jacqueline Winspear, and I remember that we all thought it was a really good book. My intentions were to read the entire series, but you know how that goes.... So when Book Club Girl decided to host "I'm Mad for Maisie", I thought this was the perfect time to take on all of the Maisie Dobbs books.

Since it has been quite awhile since I read MAISIE DOBBS, I felt as if I needed to re-read the book so I could fully participate in the discussion. Plus, I wanted to have a good understanding of the character before delving into the other books. While I couldn't have told you very much about MAISIE DOBBS prior to reading it again, I found that I knew exactly what was going to happen right as it happened. Mind you...not right before it happened, but as it happened.

I think that I enjoyed MAISIE DOBBS even more the second time around -- and I certainly wasn't expecting that! And now, I'm super excited to read the next books in the series. The thing about MAISIE DOBBS is that it was an intriguing and well-told mystery story, but it was actually so much more than that. The novel was also a great example of good historical fiction and covered some fascinating parts of World War I. Plus, I thought it had some wonderful (and terribly interesting characters.)

The book begins with Maisie opening a detective agency -- pretty amazing for a woman in the late 1920s. One of her first clients wants her to investigate his wife because he fears that she is cheating on him. Maisie isn't too excited to be doing this type of investigative work, but she becomes caught up in this case and realizes that there is more to it that she initially thought. Things become even more complicated when Maisie's friend Lady Rowan asks for her assistance with her son. He wants to move into The Retreat, a home for emotionally and physically damaged veterans, but Lady Rowan and her husband are a bit suspicious. Maisie quickly sees a link between these two cases and sets out to solve some unanswered questions about The Retreat and its owner.

In the meantime, these two cases cause Maisie to examine her own past and even revisit some of her old war memories. And that just might be what I loved the most about this book -- the depth to the Maisie's character development! The story travels back to Maisie's past and gives the reader a great deal of insight into Maisie's character. We learn about the loss of her mother, her relationship with her father, as well as her childhood eduction and wartime experiences. I was immediately caught up in Maisie's story and I grew to love her character's intelligence and strength.

I can honestly say that I found this book to be a wonderful read. I was pleasantly surprised by not only how the mystery unfolded, but also by the flashbacks to Maisie's childhood as well as the war scenes. Because I found this book to be so good on so many levels, I think it would make an excellent book club pick. There is a reading guide available with twelve thought-provoking questions as well as an interesting interview with the author. My book club had a great deal to say about this novel and we enjoyed discussing such topics as the effects of war, the resilience of humans, family dynamics, and friendship. Plus, Maisie is an extremely complex character and is worthy of some amateur analysis!

I highly recommend MAISIE DOBBS and can't wait to read the next book in the series next week! We are discussing the first book tomorrow, but it's not too late to join us in "I'm Mad for Maisie."

11 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I really want to read the Maisie Dobbs books and will hopefully get to them one of these years. You've made this one sound so good!

Jenny Girl said...

I am definitely going to start this series. I have a challenge that's perfect for it and for some reason I'm being drawn to mysteries. Thanks for the review and recommendation :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I've seen a lot of excitement over these books lately! I'm glad you liked it more the second time - that's always fun!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I am warming up quickly to this series!

Tricia said...

I adore this series. Thanks for the notice about the next one coming out. I'm adding it to my TBR now!

Marg said...

I have been meaning to read Maisie Dobbs for the longest time, but kept on putting it off. I have recently borrowed it from the library with the intention of really reading it this time.

I haven't joined the readalong, mainly because I don't tend to read books by the same author so close together, but it was the readalong which prompted me to pick it up from the library again.

Veens said...

Befor this challenge I had never heard of these books. I really want to look for them now. Great review.

katieleigh said...

I'd never heard of Maisie before this challenge either, but I'm loving all her adventures. My favorite part is also following her character development - I'm astonished by what she learns about herself with each case.

marthalama said...

Isn't Maisie just amazing? I'll finish the second book today and I love it as much as the first. I really enjoyed you review. Here's my Maisie review:

http://marthalama.wordpress.com/

Beth F said...

I have always, always wanted to read this series. I just never seem to get around to them. Sure wish I could have found the time to participate in the readalong.

BookClubGirl said...

Thanks for your review Julie and for joining the read-along! I'm glad to read a review from someone who has "met" Maisie before and to hear that the book totally held up, and more, on the re-read. I've posted this a few places, but I'm really having to hold myself back from rushing through the entire series straight away, as I want to make sure I can discuss each book on its own along with everyone.