Ever since I'd heard that Maisie Dobbs was a post-WWI, London-based sleuth (of sorts) written on a more literary level, my curiosity was roused. One of my book groups ended up reading it together (met earlier this week - book club outside by the pool, how fun is that?) and it was all I'd hoped it would be and more. (Actually, it was all I'd hoped Mr. Churchill's Secretary would be, which made it all the better.)
Although much of the book takes place a good decade after WWI ended, the story revolves around the war and its after-effects. I love reading about this era. Talk about generation shaping - the thought of shell-shocked young men roaming the streets of London at night, trying to come to terms with the war, and this: "Like many young women who came of age in the years 1914-18, Iris had no husband, for her sweetheart had been lost in the war." Gives my heart an insta-ache. I can't even imagine, yet I long to understand.
Maisie Dobbs is a great example of what a literary mystery can be. There is history, real characters, more than one line of suspense, paired with good writing and a touch of introspection. A book needn't be poorly written to have a good storyline. What makes this discovery even more intriguing is the fact that it is the first in a series. I generally don't think very highly of books that are drawn out into series, simply because they typically feel to be just that: one story that is drawn out for no good reason. I hate feeling like I need to read the next book just to find out what happens. But here, for the first time in recent history, I've found a book that actually makes me think I could keep reading the series and not risk disappointment. Maybe because it is a character/era driven series instead of a plot driven series? I don't know, but I'm on board. Birds of a Feather is #2 and on its way to my shelf, one way or another.
Reading Maisie Dobbs also stirred up all those sympathies and feelings about the dreadful ramifications of the Great War that left me feeling pangs of want for A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry. It hasn't even been a full year since I read it, and I don't often reread a book, but I need this one like I need a good long visit with an old friend. Thank you, Ms. Dobbs (& Ms. Winspear) for the experience, it was nice to meet you.