BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Jacqueline Winspear

 


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Second in the Maisie Dobbs Series
Penguin Books, Paperback Aug 2005
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Mystery, London 1930

Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, is ordered to the home of Joseph Waite, a self-made man who is so rich he has evidently forgotten he doesn’t control everyone’s lives. It is no surprise to learn that Waite wants Maisie to find his daughter Charlotte, who has run away again. The only surprise is that Charlotte keeps coming back. She is 32 years old and her life in her father’s home must have been insupportable.

The matter is not that simple, of course. Maisie forms a view of Charlotte as a spoiled rich girl yet with her abilities untapped, her spirit empty of all but pain. Maisie’s goal, as always in her cases, is to heal the sources of trouble between people. What reminder of the past keeps Charlotte alienated from her world? Has the same trouble caused the deaths of Charlotte’s three friends?

Maisie’s own life interweaves with her case. Maisie, too, is dealing with hurts from the past which keep her isolated from the people she cares about. She deals out grace and healing to the people around her, but her serenity is achieved at the cost of not allowing personal feelings to touch her too deeply. Charlotte and Joseph, Maisie finds, stir difficult feelings in her. Maisie, too, must somehow find healing and forgiveness.

Author Jacqueline Winspear does extensive historical research, in addition to having absorbed the tales of her grandparents into her writing. With her guidance readers step easily into the life of the time. The First World War still haunts the lives of the people who lived through it, but outwardly, life is changing radically. The age in which large households of servants took care of a few wealthy family members is about to end. The automobile and telephone have broadened most people’s worlds. Class barriers have blurred and can even be broken by especially able people such as Maisie Dobbs and Joseph Waite.

One of Jacqueline Winspear’s goals is to show the whole human being in her characters. Even characters as unlovable as Joseph and Charlotte Waite have valid, painful reasons to be the way they are. Just like real people, both have goodness in their characters, if only Maisie can reach it and tap it. Winspear has a sense of people from the inside out. Her insight lifts the reader to a higher level of understanding as well. I think that in the final analysis, this is the reason the Maisie Dobbs books are so inspiring to read.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER has just been released in trade paperback, and the third of the series, PARDONABLE LIES, in hardback. The entire series, which starts with Jacqueline Winspear’s triumphant debut MAISIE DOBBS, is a consistent award winner. The atmosphere Maisie creates around her is not confined to the pages of her books. It spreads out to influence and stay with readers. If you aren’t already doing so, I urge you to read them. Warm your soul on the comforting glow of Maisie Dobbs.

August 2005 Review

 

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