Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elegy For Eddie

Elegy For Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear, Harper, March 2012

If you read Maisie you’ll enjoy this one, if you don’t and like historical fiction try this series

In this ninth novel of the series we find Maisie solving the mystery of the death of a boy from her childhood community. Maisie is petitioned by friends of her father who are costermongers (great word!) working the Covet Garden area in London to look into the circumstances around the death of Eddie Pettit, a "slow" boy beloved by all. The investigation takes her from the lowest to the highest classes in British society and expands beyond the scope of the death of a simple working class boy to matters that deal with national security.

The Maisie Dobbs books are really not mysteries in the true who dunnit sense. They are more about the life and times of Londoners in the decades between the World Wars. For those who haven’t read any of this series Maisie is a rags to riches character. She was born in Lambeth the daughter of a costermonger, sent into service as a house maid, mentored by the lord and lady of the house and allowed an education. She was a nurse in WWI and like so many women lost her fiancée in the war. She studies with a famous psychological detective and upon his death inherits his fortune. She struggles with her place in society, never totally comfortable with those she grew up with nor totally at ease with the upper classes with whom she now socializes.  She has an active love life but can never seem to settle for the somewhat restricted life of a married woman in the 1930s.

I think I like these books so well for their historical setting. The time period between the wars saw major changes in British society. The always rigid class system was breaking down, women were joining the workforce, and the transition from horses to automobiles was taking place. The backdrop for all of this is the fear of a new war with Germany, a particularly horrid possibility for those who had suffered and lost so much in WWI. In addition to meeting all kinds of every day London characters the stories are rich in historical references. In this novel set in 1931 an out of power and somewhat down and out Winston Churchill makes an appearance. Also present is Hugh Dowling, a prescient Briton who understood the Nazi threat and did more than anyone to prepare Britain’s air force for the coming air war. Lastly I enjoy the depth of character development in the recurring characters in this series. I guess I am just a sucker for a good historical Upstairs/Downstairs soap opera, gotta finish this post and watch Dowton Abbey! If you read Maisie you’ll enjoy this one, if you don’t and like historical fiction try one out but start at the beginning with Maisie Dobbs- Book 1.

I read a copy of the book provided by the Amazon Vine program for early reviewers.


Zibilee said...

I haven't continued on with this series, but for awhile there, a lot of bloggers were reading these books and saying some intriguing things about them. I do really like the historical aspects of the book, and though the mysteries don't entice me much, I might like to continue onwards with this series, and discover more about Maisie and her history. Fantastic and very well rounded review today!

Julie said...

Believe it or not, I haven't read a Maisie Dobbs book, but yours is the second favorable mention I've seen today, so I'm thinking I will remedy that!

Carole said...

Fabulous review - says what I am thinking much better than I could express it myself

I've read most but not all of the Maisie Dobbs books - and I think this was one of the better ones. Not overly complicated and lots of sympathetic characters.