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January 30, 2011

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Tanya

I just got the first two and am reading them now! I would love this copy of the 3rd in the series!

Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books

Lots of great discussion questions! I'll tackle just a few :)

I suspected she might bob her hair, at the beginning only because of the tendrils that kept falling from her chignon (they slowed her down, that and having to DRY all that hair - she was too efficient to be waylaid by a hairstyle). Breaking from her mother's image and thus repairing the relationship with her father was what ultimately pushed her to do it, though. It's a huge step in moving forward, honoring the past, yet being her own person.

Re: Billy and his addiction. Maisie's straightforward approach to the problem didn't surprise me, it was so in keeping with her character of "consider the whole person, then solve the problem." I loved the way Winspear led up to this, and how, in doing so, we learned much more about the long-term effects of the War, some 12-15 yrs later. Looking back at Billy's first nosebleed in the car, I appreciated the breadcrumbs Winspear left for us to follow.

Re: upstairs/downstairs. Although Maisie was very observant of the differences between upstairs and downstairs (the form of address used, which stairs she took at different times), I didn't get as strong a sense of struggle. She seemed to have mastered the balance, and felt equally comfortable. Perhaps Maisie will be a bridge between the two as we move into the next books?

Thanks for hosting the readalong. I truly am getting to be "Mad about Maisie" ...

Julie P.

Oooh! I still need the book! LOL!

Here's the link to my review:

http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/2011/01/review-birds-of-feather.html

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I covered much of your discussion questions in it. What I loved about this book (and I do love this series) is that Maisie continues to grow as a woman. In the last novel, she definitely had a big wall around her -- and she still did in this novel. But I feel as if that wall is starting to come down a little. I think by working on her relationship with her father (and her "guilt" about her fiance), Maisie can now move on in her life. I'm not sure which suitor I like better right now, but I do think the police inspector would make for a more interesting relationship -- conflict, tension, etc. Plus I think he and Maisie would understand each other because of their mutual losses.

I also noticed the more detailed fashion descriptions in this book. So much fun. I think Ms. Winspear captured the essence of this time period incredibly well. And I'm hoping that Maisie's change of appearance means that she is starting to get rid of that wall around her. She debated the change at the beginning of the novel because she was afraid that it would show her scar. I hope it means that she is going to start worrying less about her internal and external scars -- more like a new start.

Trish

I would love to read this book! I have heard about the Maisie books for years on the Maud Hart Lovelace maillist.

Martha

First, I have to say I love, love, love Downton Abbey, I can't wait to sit and watch the final episode (though I hate to see it go and I'm thrilled there will be a second series).

Now, back to Maisie. I was so happy to see Maisie start to move on in her relationships. Trying to reach out and making connections, especially reconnecting with her father. Their relationship was so relaxed and comforting for her when she was little it made me sad to see them drift apart. I thought Winspear handled this whole episode so well. As she did with Billy and his recovery. It did make me wonder if there really was acknowledgment of addiction in that time period. Plus, who knew Pilates had been around that long?

As for who she should choose between the doctor and the inspector, I hope she sees both for awhile. I think she needs to have more experiences with relationships and much more fun. Maisie needs to be young for awhile, she's had so much seriousness I hope we get to see her cut loose a little.

Martha

Sorry to use this for other business but... Julie, I can't comment on your blog using my wordpress account (haven't been able to comment on any Blogger account) you may want to let Blogger know. But, just wanted to say I loved your review.

nomadreader

My review is here: http://bit.ly/igcMmP. (I'm waiting to start book 3 until after this discussion too!)

1. I really like the romance creeping in. I'm glad it's not happening to suddenly, and I'm curious to see where it goes in future books.

2. I was surprised by the addiction storyline, but I really liked it. It was such a nice bit of historical information, and I'm glad to see it addressed and dealt with.

3. I think Waite was quite a real character. My modern sensibilities make him seem sexist, but I think that's too easy. Judged by the time he lives in, he is a good man trying to do what he thinks is right.

4. I was not familiar with the order of a white feather, but I was fascinated by it! I will also remember the events of this novel because of the title.

5. I love the upstairs, downstairs theme too. In general, I'm a huge fan of the theme of not quite belonging or belonging more than one place, and I hope Maisie has more time when she's the only "upstairs" person in the home. I'd like to see those characters more in future books.

Thanks for great questions!

Jen - Devourer of Books

I finally my my review of the first book up today.
http://www.devourerofbooks.com/2011/01/maisie-dobbs-by-jacqueline-winspear-book-review/

I read "Birds of a Feather" last week and really enjoyed it, quite a lot more than the first book, actually. I thought that the pieces of Maisie's past were woven into this story in a more subtle manner, so that her backstory wasn't overtaking the main thread.

I really like the way that the romance is being approached. Maisie has too much baggage to just magically fall in with a man, but I appreciate that she is beginning to realize that, and re-evaluate her past relationships

Diane (bookchickdi)

My review of Birds of a Feather is here.
http://bookchickdi.blogspot.com/2011/01/mad-for-maisie-birds-of-feather.html

As to the discussion questions:
1. I'm happy to see Maisie considering opening up her heart again. Both men seem like they could be good matches for her, but Dr. Dene could be better.
2. I was not surprised by Maisie's response to Billy's problem, I think it may have been the nurse in her coming out, but I was surprised that it took her so long to reach her conclusion that Billy was addicted.
3. I liked Joseph Waite, the fact that he isn't black-or-white, but shades of gray, made him a more interesting character.
4. War means many changes for all, including women who have to take on the more traditional male roles during times of war, and it's good to see this acknowledged in novels like this. The Order of the Feather is intriguing, I'd never heard of them before. The things that seem so clear in youth become less so as adults, thank goodness. The more we live, the more compassionate we become.
6. LOVE the clothes! Wish there were illustrations in the book. I think Maisie shedding her old hairdo signals a change in her life. She is becoming more open to new things, like love.

jeanie

I'll be back to revist the questions when I revisit the books! I read every Maisie as soon as they come out in PB. (Actually, sometimes I start reading while they're still in hard cover at the bookstore, but I want the PBs for my collection! But getting those plots all mixed up and don't want to be a spoiler! Next one is out in pb on Feb.22!

Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

I do love the descriptions of fashion, and Maisie's new haircut - I hope it's an outward sign of an inward letting go.

I'm glad to see that she has suitors - I think she probably has more in common with Stratton, but I like Dr. Dene so much! However, I think the romance will take a while to develop, due in no small part to Maisie's history with Simon.

I'd never heard of the Order of the White Feather, and was frankly appalled by their work - but it was also fascinating to read about the different ways women dealt with the war.

I'm already onto Messenger of Truth. Loving the series!

Becca

I enjoyed seeing Maisie mature in this book, and I think the success of her business has helped her become more confident in herself as a person. I think she feels ready to branch out into relationships, and I was glad to see a couple of possible suitors emerge on the scene.

Looking forward to starting Pardonable Lies...

Martha

I knew about the White Feather from a movie I'd seen ages ago so that helped me guess what was going on.

I, too, found Joesph Waite an interesting character. While there was so much about him that was awful but he was really endearing in many other ways. I think he meant well.

Darsa

Love this:
"Grief from the war cast a shadow that at times was dense and at others seemed as pale as a length of gauze. But it was never gone."

I'm going to try and not be a broken record about this, but it is all of the historical/character aspects that make me love this book and the series. I had never heard of the Order of the White Feather and found it fascinating; I appreciate how the book shows how it came to be and also the awful repercussions.

And, as you said, the book illuminates yet another lasting affect of the war on society and the soldiers in particular: drug abuse. I think Maisie's (with Maurice's advice) approach is a very modern; if only every addict had that kind of support. Glad that it was Billy (someone the reader knows and respects) that experiences this... makes it more personal. (That sounded mean... but you get me, right?)

Random aside: I think I read somewhere that Jacqueline Winspear wrote one or more of the books while recovering from a serious horseback-riding incident... I wonder if she used Pilates to help herself recover.

Darsa

(I'm sorry... I *do* know the difference between affect and effect, I promise.)

Anyway, this tells about the Jacqueline Winspear's accident, but it doesn't mention Pilates : ).

http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/maisie_dobbs.html

I also found this incredibly interesting:

http://www.jacquelinewinspear.com/A%20Conversation%20with%20Jacqueline%20Winspear.pdf

Julia

I’m trying to catch up! I’ve got my thoughts on Birds of a Feather recorded here and here, and will hopefully finish Messenger of Truth before I leave on Friday for vacation. So I’ll catch up with the discussion post on that one upon my return. Maybe book 4 will see me right on schedule finally. :) And I respond to your questions…

1. I really enjoyed Maisie’s personal journeys in this book. I need for her to be human! She was a touch too much business for me in book 1; I look forward to her having more intimate personal relationships (romantic or otherwise) and relaxing a bit. I vastly prefer Dr. Dene! He doesn’t seem put off by profession. Inspector Stratton is too traditional and offended by her place in the world; frankly, I don’t see him romancing her at all. He’s normally scolding.

2. Billy’s addiction was one of my favorite features of the book. Maisie’s approach is admirable, as is Winspear’s – they’re both so matter-of-fact. I don’t know if this is anachronistic (see my concern below) but I really appreciated it.

3. I agree with Martha’s impression of Waite. He was a bit difficult to stomach in his sexism, but he’s appropriate for his times. (I can understand that authors of historical fiction sometimes want to make their characters palatable to our modern tastes, but unrealistically egalitarian characters from a period where they don’t belong always bother me.) I think Winspear worked to make Waite complex and multifaceted, and he did have some likeable qualities.

4. I’d never heard of the White Feather folks, and was a bit horrified (although Winspear did so well to show us how a well-meaning young lady could be misled in the beginning). The other women-in-war positions are better known, to me at least.

5. I do hope Maisie finds a home… including real friends she can be open and honest with, whether they be Billy, her father, Maurice, her new male friends, etc. (She could probably use a female friend in there somewhere too!) I guess I have a hard time comprehending how extreme is the challenge of class, since we don’t live with anything like that today.

6. This part sort of passed me by, as I’m not terribly interested in fashion or hairstyles, myself! But now that you mentioned it, I did notice her clothes. She has a nice sense of style – simple and functional and classy. As a librarian I wear a lot of slacks and cardigans, myself. :)

These discussions are great fun; thanks for hosting!

Mary

I love the balance -- logic and feeling, strong independence and reliance on others, sensible styles and wish for elegance and art. Maisie is complex and real, her life, decisions, problems are not easy, but she carries on, as we must, Thanks for fascinating and very worthwhile books.

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