"....few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into [her] heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memories to which, sooner or later - no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover or how much we learn or forget - we will return." -Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

Friday, January 13, 2012

My brilliant friend Maisie

I love book series. I appreciate their pace. With the first book in a series I get to know a little bit about the character and the author begins to draw me in to what will hopefully be a lifelong relationship. As I read each subsequent book, I gradually get to know my new friend. What I especially like about a series is that I am shielded from the sadness that usually comes with the end of a good book because I know that with the next, I will get to spend more time with my pal. 

I sometimes ponder what my life would be like without Easy Rawlins or Precious Ramotswe, two of my favorite book series characters. They mean a lot to me. They are my teachers. They provide lessons on what goodness looks like, how to make a hard decision and live with the consequences, and how to learn from history. They also make me laugh.  A lot. I measure a book's worth by how much I would like to live in it. If only they would ask, I would kiss my husband goodbye and move in with Easy or Precious in a hot minute.

My latest series-love is Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. I have just finished reading the eighth (and at this point) last book in the series: A Lesson in Secrets. What can I tell you about Maisie? She comes from humble beginnings. Her father was a costermonger in pre-World War I London. What, prey tell, is a costermonger? Exactly!  This is why I love Maisie. She introduces me to all sorts of things that I wouldn't otherwise know about. And,  they are all worth knowing.

Her mother died at an early age and her father sent her into service. At her employers' home, Maisie not only worked hard, she also had the opportunity to discover a world of intellectual opportunities through the mistress' library. When she was caught reading books in the middle of the night, she was afraid she would be fired, but instead was offered the chance to be mentored by a great scholar.

While it may sound like a typical Cinderella story, it is most decidedly, not. Maisie's life takes many twists and turns, including a stint as a nurse in World War I. After the War, Maisie must regroup and put her life back together. She becomes a private investigator and psychologist. A large part of her success is the result of the careful cultivation and reliance on her intuition. Maisie doesn't solve cases on facts alone. She has feelings and understandings that go beyond what can be observed. Maisie possesses extraordinary ways of knowing.

Doesn't she sound brilliant?

The books aren't just about Maisie. They are about English society before and after World War I; the changing role and position of women in that era; and how people persevere in the face of devastating loss and poverty. Maisie Dobbs novels are about London and the English countryside and how new technologies (namely the motor car and the telephone) changed them both. They are also about those who have, those who have not and the consequences of injustice.

I hope you will introduce yourself to Maisie and become acquainted.  Please tell her Huff sent you.

Do you like book series?  Why or why not?

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