I am continuing to write my blogs about fictional novels set during WWI including the prewar and post war years. These books feature strong female characters and the stories of people and families as opposed to say –military strategy. I explained in my blog on December 21, 2011 my reasons for wanting to visit this time in historical fiction.
“MAISIE DOBBS” is the first book in a series written by Jacqueline Winspear. There are presently 8 books in the series and each book deserves its own discussion but for the purpose of this blog entry I will just be discussing the series as a series.
Maisie is an exceptional character because she manages to straddle the worlds of the upper and lower classes. She begins her life in very limited circumstances in London around the turn of last century. Her beloved father makes the difficult decision to put her “in service”when she is only 13 years old because he thinks it will be a more comfortable life for her. Maisie thinks she will be fired when her employer discovers her utilizing her library but instead, The Lady is impressed and decides to assist with Maisie’s education. Maisie’s education progresses for many years but WWI changes everything and everyone and Maisie lies about her age to become a nurse.
In 1929, Maisie opens her own office as an “Inquiry Agent and psychologist”. The people in her life and the cases she examines are always affected by the war even some 13 years later. Maisie is also affected by the war and has to deal with some horrible memories.
If there is a reoccurring theme in the MAISIE DOBBS books it is INJUSTICE. Through her cases and the other characters in the books Maisie deals with some pretty hefty issues.
Many of the soldiers that fought for their country and sustained injuries are being forgotten by their country. Some of the shell-shocked soldiers are being ignored. The depression of the 1930’s has people starving yet there are people with scads of money to waste. And people are nervously watching this upstart named Hitler as he comes to power in Germany.
Personal grief, depression and anxiety are all examined in the books. And through it all Maisie crosses through many barriers. She is a professional woman in a predominately male world and a lower class kid with lots of ties in the upper classes.
Maisie’s methods are also interesting. She is a student of some Eastern arts like meditation and she believes in the power of intuition.
These books are character-driven and provide a fascinating look at the time-period. Sometime they are a little dark but I highly recommend them.
Maisie Dobbs (2003) by Jacqueline Winspear
SOHO press, New york