Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

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This is a new detective series I discovered. Maisie Dobbs is a bright young woman facing challenges in the early 20th century. Her father is facing financial challenges after the death of Maisie’s mother. Frankie Dobbs believes a place in “service” is the best place for his daughter. So Maisie sadly leaves her father and joins the staff of Lady Rowan Compton. It doesn’t take long for Lady Rowan to discover Maisie isn’t an ordinary girl, but a young woman of superior intelligence, curiosity and work ethic. She becomes Maisie’s patron and forever changes the course of Maisie’s life.

Her scholar mentor, Maurice Blanche, she learns and grasps concepts far beyond one of her age. She earns a place at Cambridge University and Lady Rowan becomes her patron. With the world of learning waiting to be discovered, England becomes involved in World War I. Her friend, Enid, from her days in service compels her to do something more for the war effort. So Maisie takes a deferment and joins up as a Voluntary Aid Nurse. Thus beginning another new path.

The store begins post WW I and Maisie is now working as an independent private investigator, an unusual profession for a woman in 1929. She is hired to investigate where a worried husband’s wife is spending some her afternoons. Thus Maisie is lead to The Retreat, a place for injured soldiers. It isn’t as rosy as it seems. Danger lies in her path and also the realization she must face her own past.

War is never pretty or good, not now and not then. Souls are damaged everyday by violence and war. The question is why do some people pull through and go on to live productive lives while others struggle to get through the day. Would I be brave enough if faced with the choice of school or going to the front line as volunteer during war? I don’t know. I have been brave in the past but never in the face of violence and war. My life has been protected from such choices.

Maisie inspires me to face up to my own past, to the stories left unfinished. How will Maisie deal with her unfinished war story? Will she be able to forgive herself? Will she be able to go forward? I face the same questions.

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