I hope that everyone enjoyed reading the first book in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series as much as I did. I really loved it. But I want to hear what all of you thought, so without further ado, onto the questions! Feel free to answer all, or just a few of the below questions in the comments section. And also please do add any other thoughts you had about the book that I might not have brought up here. I hope we have a great discussion!
1. Maisie Dobbs depicts an interesting time in English history. Winspear doesn't discuss WWI so much as that time leading up to it and then the long-lasting effects that lingered from it. Is this a time period you already knew well? If not, did you enjoy learning about it and what did you learn that most surprised you? And if this was an era you already knew, what books or movies about the time period have you read or watched that other readers might enjoy?
2. Maisie Dobbs belongs to the genre of mystery labelled "cozy" where the crime happens off camera and the detective is not a member of the police force and who is often dismissed by the authorities. Were you a mystery reader before you read Maisie Dobbs? If so which genre do most enjoy? If not, do you think you'll read more mysteries now?
3. Winspear makes some interesting choices in how she tells Maisie's story. The novel opens in 1929 and we first glimpse Maisie as a young woman establishing herself as an investigator. Once her first case is underway, we're brought back to the period of time between 1910 and 1917. Here we meet a young Maisie at 13 and learn how she came to work at the home of Lord and Lady Compton, and was later educated by and apprenticed to a man named Maurice Blanche. Maisie then leaves school to work as a nurse in the war and falls in love. At the time of an explosion that injures both Maisie and her boyfriend Simon, Winspear flashes forward again and we return to 1929 and her current case. How did you think this structure helped Winspear tell the story--both of Maisie and of the men at The Retreat?
4. I'm intrigued that we don't ever see, in flashback, one of the most influential times in Maisie's life--her apprenticeship with Maurice. How did you feel about Winspear's choice to leave that out? Do you hope (as she hints in the interview in the back of the book) that we'll one day see Maurice and Maisie working side by side on those earlier cases?
5. In the interview with Winspear in the back of the paperback edition, she talks about Maisie's isolation and in the next book we'll see a bit more how Maisie is trapped between two worlds socially. Earlier in her life she is friends with Enid, Priscilla and Iris, but all are women who by circumstance are already a part of her life, because they work, live or go to school together. By 1929, Maisie has created a largely solitary life for herself. What do you think of her seemingly conscious decision to be alone?
6. Did Maisie's approach to detecting--including exploring people's emotions, as well as her concern to leave people healed in addition to solving the crime--ever seem anachronistic to you?
7. Were you surprised, at the end, to learn that Simon was alive and that Maisie was only seeing him for the first time?
8. Is there anything I haven't brought up that you'd like to mention or discuss?
Thank you all for joining me, now onto the second book in the series, Birds of a Feather. Meet me back here on Monday, January 31st for that discussion! In the meantime, stay in touch on Jacqueline's Facebook page.