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Maisie Dobbs (Book 1) by Jacqueline Winspear
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Maisie Dobbs (Book 1) (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Jacqueline Winspear

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2,454None2,496 (3.86)382
Member:ffortsa
Title:Maisie Dobbs (Book 1)
Authors:Jacqueline Winspear
Info:Penguin Books (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 294 pages
Collections:Mysteries, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (2003)

1920s (50) 20th century (18) audio (14) audiobook (14) British (55) British mystery (15) crime (38) detective (72) ebook (13) England (156) female detective (29) fiction (261) historical (62) historical fiction (134) historical mystery (56) Kindle (14) London (64) Maisie Dobbs (93) mystery (548) novel (23) nurses (19) post-WWI (15) private investigator (35) psychology (14) read (45) series (57) to-read (50) unread (15) women detectives (19) WWI (230)
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Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
Maisie Dobbs is categorized as a mystery, but I would consider it general fiction or historical fiction. The main character, Maisie, is a detective and there is a mystery to solve, but the novel diverges from the usual patterns of the mystery genre. Maisie Dobbs is primarily a character driven novel and the plot takes a backseat to the main character.

The novel is divided into three sections. The first section introduces Maisie in 1929 as she takes on her first investigation case with a mystery to solve. This section reads very much like a mystery novel. The second section is a flashback to Maisie's youth, prior to WWI, as a smart young girl taken into service as a scullery maid in the home of Lady Rowan. It is here, as part of Lady Rowan's progressive social beliefs, that Maisie is provided an education alongside her service as a maid. Maisie is also mentored by a rather enigmatic gentleman detective and government consultant as part of her education. It is hoped, by this gentleman, that Maisie might one day take over his business when he retires. This section also describes Maisie's war experiences as a nurse during WWI. The entire second section reads like historical fiction. The third section of the book returns to 1929, the mystery, and its resolution. The third section is somewhat suspenseful, but not overly so.

I found both the character of Maisie, as well as the historical and social aspects of the novel, quite satisfying. I fell in love with Maisie and her unconventional detecting methods. Maisie's real skill is helping people find the truths about themselves. The detecting becomes more about the people involved than about the events. There is a bit of Eastern mysticism involved in Maisie's intuitive methodology that I hope the author engages with in future books of the series. I am particularly interested in the time period covered in this novel with it's early 20th century shift from a class-based society to an emerging (more) egalitarian one and the social issues that are involved with that shift. Those who like Downton Abbey will probably enjoy this first book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Particularly heartbreaking in this novel is the trauma of WWI and the deep scar that the horror and grief left on Great Britain for many years. The novel captures this personal and national grief well through plot and character.

I must mention that there were a few times I had to suspend my disbelief. I don't know if the author decided to take liberties with her writing in order to suit the storyline or if this was oversight. It will be interesting to see if this continues in future books.

I highly recommend this book to those who like historical fiction, character driven novels, or just a good story. I noticed that School Library Journal reviewed the book which tells me it is a crossover novel between adult fiction and YA. I don't think it is marketed as YA, but it is certainly appropriate. ( )
  TerriB | Feb 20, 2014 |
A solid beginning to the series. I thought some of the dialog was stilted ("We must rescue him. His life is in danger.") and the fact that Maisie's benefactors, Lady Rowan and Maurice Blanche, never make a misstep in helping her. They are always wise, always fair, always right. Maisie had very little to fear from the time she was 13 on. I also was a bit impatient with the shifts in the timeline--for me, it didn't build suspense, it just made me disengage from the story.

The best scenes in the books were the ones where Maisie is helping someone to understand a truth about themselves, instead of merely uncovering a mystery. The time and place are beautifully rendered--the reader sees the terrible upheaval the Great War causes in Britain--the pain of loss, the bewildering changes in traditional roles based on class and gender, the miserable condition of veterans struggling with mental illness and shattering injuries.

Completely unbelievable: spoiler: that anybody would believe that a man with Billy's bearing, accent, and vocabulary was the brother of a woman with Maisie's appearance--she even delivered him to the Retreat in Lady Rowan's fancy car. Billy didn't even practice for the role.

But...I will certainly seek out the next in the series. ( )
  Turrean | Feb 15, 2014 |
This is one of my favorite books. I'm still loving it 5 years later. I recommend it to lots of folks. Begins before WWI and continues into its aftermath. A good look at class in Britain. Wonderful characters. A great start to a wonderful series.

For those who like this series try Bess Crawford mysteries by Charles Todd. This first is called Duty to the Dead. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
The first volume in the Maisie Dobbs Mysteries series, about a female detective in late 1920s England. Maisie began her life as a child in household service to a wealthy but enlightened and well-meaning woman but was given a prestigious education and apprenticed to a gentleman detective friend of the family, as we learn in a series of flashbacks and memories throughout the course of the book. The scars of World War I are still quite prominent - Maisie served as a battlefield nurse during the war and is sometimes plagued by bad memories, and several secondary characters are war veterans and carry their experiences with them in different ways.

The contemporary, mystery-solving storyline in this book was bisected by a lengthy detour into Maisie's past, from childhood through her service in the war, which made the reading experience somewhat disjointed. I loved the detour into Maisie's past, which was a great coming-of-age story; however, the length of the trip into the past made it very hard to get back into the frankly weak mystery involving a country retreat for Great War veterans. There was a bit of a shock ending that really deepened Maisie's character.

Despite my lukewarm rating for this book, I was thoroughly engrossed by parts of it, find Maisie an engaging character, and am going to try the second book to see if the mystery element is better. ( )
  fannyprice | Feb 10, 2014 |
Like the premise, like the context, like the plot, but the writing is so feeble! Overall, I'm disappointed.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
A strong protagonist and a lively sense of time and place carry readers along, and the details lead to further thought and understanding about the futility and horror of war, as well as a desire to hear more of Maisie. This is the beginning of a series, and a propitious one at that.
added by khuggard | editSchool Library Journal
 
For a clever and resourceful young woman who has just set herself up in business as a private investigator, Maisie seems a bit too sober and much too sad.
 
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Epigraph
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him to bed? Why don't they come?

Final verse "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen. It was drafted at Craiglockhart, a hospital for shell-shocked officers, in October 1917. Owen was killed on November 4, 1918, just one week before the armistice.
Dedication
This book is dedicated to the memory of my paternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother.

JOHN "JACK" WINSPEAR sustained serious leg wounds during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. Following convalescence, he returned to his work as a costermonger in southeast London.

CLARA FRANCES CLARK, nee Atterbury, was a munitions worker at the Woolwich Arsenal during the First World War. She was partially blinded in an explosion that killed several girls working in the same section alongside her. Clara later married and became the mother of ten children.
First words
Even if she hadn't been the last person to walk through the turnstile at Warren Street tube station, Jack Barker would have noticed the tall, slender woman in the navy blue, thigh-length jacket with a matching pleated skirt short enough to reveal a well-turned ankle.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142004332, Paperback)

Hailed by NPR’s Fresh Air as part Testament of Youth, part Dorothy Sayers, and part Upstairs, Downstairs, this astonishing debut has already won fans from coast to coast and is poised to add Maisie Dobbs to the ranks of literature’s favorite sleuths.

Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Private detective Maisie Dobbs must investigate the reappearance of a dead man who turns up at a cooperative farm called the Retreat that caters to men who are recovering their health after World War I.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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