Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Book Store’

When Book Club Girl announced her read-along of the Maisie Dobbs series back in December, I was intrigued. Usually I’ve at least heard of popular series even if I haven’t read them, but somehow Maisie and her creator, Jacqueline Winspear, had escaped my notice. I found the first book in the series at the Brattle, took it as a sign and bought it – and well, I was hooked. You might say I’m “mad for Maisie.”

I’ve spent a good part of this winter following Maisie’s adventures around 1920s/1930s London, with frequent trips to Kent and occasional ventures to France and other locales. She’s a psychologist and private investigator, and she is smart, strong, independent and determined – one of a generation of women who survived the Great War and then built their own lives in new and unexpected ways.

The books are full of fascinating period detail, from clothes to accents to social mores, and the supporting cast of characters is rich and compelling. (I especially love Billy Beale, Maisie’s cheerful Cockney assistant; Frankie Dobbs, her steadfast, loving father; and Priscilla, her socialite college chum who has her own demons to fight.) As much historical fiction as mystery, these books are filling an important gap for me; I hadn’t read much fiction about World War I and its aftermath until lately. (Except Rilla of Ingleside, which has done more for my understanding of the Great War than any other book, fiction or nonfiction.)

Jacqueline Winspear came recently to the Harvard Book Store to read from the latest Maisie adventure, A Lesson in Secrets. I talked my sweet husband into coming straight from work on a Friday night to hear an author whose books he hasn’t read, and bless him, he agreed, and even enjoyed himself. As for me? I was in heaven.

Like any author worth her salt, Ms. Winspear didn’t give away the plot of her new book – fortunately for me, since I hadn’t yet read it. Instead, she talked about a few of the threads weaving through the whole series, including the legacy of the Great War in England, the shifting social mores of the time, a bit of family history (her grandparents bore scars, physical and otherwise, from the war), and her own interest in secrets and mysteries. And then, in her clear, pleasant English accent, she read us a brief passage from A Lesson in Secrets. I was spellbound. I wish I could have written down every word.

I did speak with her briefly afterward, feeling tongue-tied (as I always do when I meet authors I admire), but managing to tell her I love her work, and mention my time in Oxford, as she signed a couple of books for me and one for a friend. And I didn’t tell her this, but it’s true: next time she’s on a Maisie tour, I hope she comes back this way.


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