Sunday, March 04, 2007

Recommending "Maisie Dobbs"

I always have a book in progress, and it could be anything - history, biography, science, science fiction, adventure novel (rarely), religion, philosophy, you name it. I will tackle a tough one occasionally, like "A Short History of Time" (actually read it all!), but generally I just like a book that is well written and teaches me something about anything. That's why I'm recommending Jacqueline Winspear's series of books about the character "Maisie Dobbs".

Without giving away anything important, I can tell you that Maisie is a commoner girl whose talent, pluck, and good luck allow her to join the small middle class in post-WWI London as a professional "investigator and psychologist". She solves some interesting mysteries, but they are not what have kept my interest. What has kept my interest is the faithful representation of English culture during this period, especially with respect to the impact of WWI on post-war England. If you have a prejudice against war, Winspear will deepen it and give you a far more "gut-level" understanding of why war is a last resort. If you like war, Winspear will make you think again.

In the fourth novel of the series, Maisie and a veteran are conversing about the war and the recruiting effort that provided the fighters. The veteran says, "Old men always tell the young to do their bit, and half the time it isn't anything they want to do themselves." Needless to say, the image of Bush and his neocon team of draft evaders came to mind immediately.

But politics don't often come up in these books, so don't worry about being preached to. Maisie is a wonderful character, and I hope you get to meet her. The books are relatively quick reads, so grab the first one - entitled "Maisie Dobbs" - and give her a try. A very bright member of Rochester's only commune, the Rochester Folk Art Guild, recommended it to me. I'm grateful.


ThomasLB said...

You might like The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Andrew McCall-Smith.

He grew in in Africa, and the stories are a pretty accurate representation of the people and culture. The plots are interesting, but are really second to the characters.

Chrlane said...

Sounds interesting. We'll check it out.