Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

"Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear
First published in 2003
294 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

Favorite Quote:
"The feeling inside that she experienced when she saw the books was akin to the hunger she felt as food was put on the table at the end of the working day. And she knew that she needed this sustenance as surely as her body needed is fuel."

The Long Of It:
I'd been meaning to start the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series for years, and I finally read the first book after a friend mentioned she was reading the newest installment and we got to chatting about the series. It was not as heavy on the mystery as I expected, nor was it as cozy and lighthearted, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and I'll definitely be reading book two of the now 13-book series.

There is indeed a bit of a mystery to solve, but the focus is on introducing the reader to Maisie, a private investigator with an endearing rags-to-riches story. Much of the backstory focuses on Maisie's enlisting as a nurse in WWI -- something that does eventually tie into the case she's working on.

I felt like I was reading historical fiction more than historical mystery quite a bit of the time, but I didn't mind; I appreciated all the background on Maisie and I imagine the future books will be more mystery-oriented. Maisie's led a fascinating, tragic and wonderful life in her first three decades and I enjoyed getting to know her. Some reviewers complained that Maisie was "too perfect," making her feel cold and difficult to connect with, but to each her own... I prefer protagonists who are strong, smart, independent and brave -- basically, women I wish I were more like. And I sure wouldn't mind being like Maisie (she's pretty, too)!

I also enjoyed the historical British atmosphere, both in the 1910s and in 1929 when Maisie is working as an investigator. I look forward to traveling through the '30s and into the start of WWII with her. Another plus was the lovable supporting characters, from Maisie's costermonger (vegetable seller) father to her brilliant mentor to her exuberant university roommate.

One gripe I had was that the writing felt a bit uneven at times. The first section of the book takes place in 1929 and some things were referenced that didn't really make sense until reading the middle portion -- Maisie's backstory. I didn't really love the book's construction either -- I think I may have preferred just diving into Maisie's childhood and WWI experience right off the bat instead of starting with the mystery, then abandoning it entirely for 150 pages, then suddenly picking it back up. Or perhaps this would've been an appropriate time for alternating chapters, so both the past and present stories unfold simultaneously. I was also a little irritated by inconsistent use of capitalization and quote marks around certain phrases. But this was the author's first book, so I expect these small issues to disappear by later installments.

And I will most definitely be reading those later installments; I think Maisie is a character I can get behind for the duration of a series, and I'm looking forward to more adventures with her.


  1. I've thought about picking up something from this series a few times so I'm glad to see a more detailed review - especially since it's a largely positive one.

    1. I enjoyed it! I'll definitely be continuing the series. :)


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