Our Maisie Dobbs Read-Along continues with our discussion of The Mapping of Love and Death, the seventh novel in the series. I literally just finished the book (after a timely viewing of the new Upstairs Downstairs on Masterpiece) and loved it. I've said this before, but each Maisie Dobbs book becomes my new favorite, but in Mapping, I felt as though Winspear (and Maisie) made a huge leap, and now I cannot wait to read the newly released A Lesson in Secrets.
The Mapping of Love and Death (from Jacqueline Winspear's website)
The Mapping of Love and Death opens in August 1914 in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. Michael Clifton—youngest son of an Englishman who had emigrated to America when he was in his late teens, in search of his fortune—has just purchased a tract of land which he believes is rich with one of the state's most valuable resources—oil. A cartographer and surveyor, Michael is sure of his quest, and anticipates his father's pride in his acquisition. Fate steps in when the young Bostonian begins his journey home, and learns that Britain is going to war in Europe, so in a moment of loyalty to his father's homeland, he decides to travel to England to enlist for service. Michael is listed as "missing" in 1916.
In the spring of 1932, after Michael's remains are discovered in France, along with other members of his cartography unit. His wealthy parents hire Maisie Dobbs to find the woman who wrote a series of love letters discovered among Michael's belongings. The lover identifies herself only as "The English Nurse."
While tracking down the elusive woman in an investigation that ventures from London's most exclusive drawing rooms to its most downtrodden neighborhoods, Maisie must also wrestle with memories of serving as a nurse in the Great War—memories that she has tried so hard to conquer—and of the passionate wartime romance that ended in tragedy. But as she delves more deeply into what she discovers to be a long-hidden crime, the investigator realizes that unearthing buried secrets can lead to present-day danger—just as events from the past send her own life in a surprising and not unpleasant direction.
1) Maisie has grown by leaps and bounds in this book, in my estimation. While in earlier books her actions in her personal life have been measured, she at last seems able to act on her impulses and without too much fear of anticipated repercussions. I'm thrilled to pieces that she's "walking out" with James Compton, and that we're at last seeing James' true measure. What are your thoughts on this liaison?
2) We've all written in past discussions about our concern for the Beales and it was so nice to see them finding some bit of happiness in this novel. I was surprised to hear their news at the end, as I feared Doreen was relapsing. Do we think they'll remain in London?
3) Once again, I learned something about history that I knew nothing about, namely, the role of cartographers during the war and their importance. It was also interesting to learn about Americans, like Michael Clifton, who as early as 1914, enlisted in the war. Were these facts new to you as well, and if not, what did you learn reading the novel?
4) I found that I really enjoyed the interactions between Maisie and Inspector Detective Caldwell. (though I hope we'll see more of Stratton). While in earlier novels it was easy to dismiss Caldwell as arrogant and disrespectful, I rather liked learning more about him and seeing him and Maisie dance around one another on the case. How do you feel about Caldwell?
5) With Maurice's passing, so much will change for Maisie - not only with managing her newfound wealth, but also because it seems that many higher ups rightly view her as Maurice's successor in terms of intelligence, and will come to rely on her as the international political situation continues to deteriorate. What do you think is next for Maisie?
6) Maisie's fascination with America and the new world and exploring, and especially with California, made me wonder about Jacqueline Winspear's own decision to live on the west coast of the States. I look forward to asking her about that on the 26th!
I can't wait to hear what everyone thought of The Mapping of Love and Death - and I know from Twitter and Facebook that many of you continued on ahead to A Lesson in Secrets already. We'll be discussing A Lesson in Secrets here on Monday, April 25th and on Tuesday, April 26th, we will discuss all of the Maisie Dobbs books with Jacqueline Winspear herself on Book Club Girl on Air!
I have 3 copies of A Lesson in Secrets for anyone who still needs a copy - please comment below and I'll give them to the first 3 people who tell me they need them. I can't believe our read-along is rushing into its final stages, we must be sure to leave plenty of time for a "final accounting" of the series.