I loved our first discussion of Maisie Dobbs and because I read the first two books in quick succession I had to bite my tongue to not start talking about Birds of a Feather right away. (I'm trying to pace my reading better with Pardonable Lies). So onto the discussion of book two in Jacqueline Winspear's compelling series!
About Birds of a Feather (from Jacqueline Winspear's website)
An eventful year has passed for Maisie Dobbs. Since starting a one-woman private investigation agency in 1929 London, she now has a professional office in Fitzroy Square and an assistant, the happy-go-lucky Billy Beale. She has proven herself as a psychologist and investigator, and has even won over Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad—an admirable achievement for a woman who worked her way from servant to scholar to sleuth, and who also served as a battlefield nurse in the Great War.
It's now the early Spring of 1930. Stratton is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she's bolted again.
Waite's instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. When Maisie looks into the disappearance she finds a chilling link to Stratton's murder case, and to the terrible legacy of The Great War.
Maisie has suitors!! Now, if she would just let them into her life...
1) I was so heartened to see that Maisie is being challenged in this book, by more than just a case, in that she is beginning to look at her own life and relationships. Maisie is coming closer to being able to have a man in her life and to having a more honest relationship with her father. So, what do you think of the two men who are seeking her attentions, Dr. Dene and Detective Inspector Stratton?
2) Addiction is addressed in Birds of a Feather as we learn that Billy Beale is addicted to cocaine, which he used initially after the war to alleviate the pain in his wounded leg. Were you surprised by Maisie's matter-of-fact approach to Billy's problem?
3) As awful as he could be at times, I rather liked the character of Joseph Waite with all his contradictions. (I would really like to shop in one of his stores as well). What did you think of Waite?
4) I was so interested to learn about the different ways women worked during the war. In Maisie Dobbs we see Enid working in the munitions factory and of course Maisie enlisted as a nurse. In Birds of a Feather we learn about the women who volunteered on the homefront - including the misguided souls like the 4 women at the crux of this novel's mystery, who joined the Order of the White Feather. Did you know that such groups existed?
5) I thought that Winspear's depiction of Maisie caught between two social worlds at Eubury Place was so well done. You really sense how she belongs both upstairs and downstairs, but feels at home in neither class (and this has only been enriched by obsessive watching of Downton Abbey). What did you think of this struggle that Maisie faces?
6) The fashions of the times were certainly part of the first book but I felt they came more to the forefront in BOAF, with many descriptions of Maisie's clothes and even of the MG and how she looks in it. I felt we were drawn to "look" at Maisie much more. And indeed, at the end of the book, she makes a dramatic (for her) cosmetic decision. What do you think of the newly bobbed Maisie and what this move might mean for her going forward?
I hope everyone enjoyed Birds of a Feather as much as I did, and can't wait to hear your thoughts. We'll discuss the next book in the series, Pardonable Lies on Valentine's Day, February 14th. And, thanks to Picador, I have 3 copies of Pardonable Lies to give away! I'll award them to the first 3 people who comment (who still need the book, that is). Note that I'll have copies to give away going forward, so stay tuned for a giveaway of book 4 when we discuss Pardonable Lies).