Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Series: #1 in the Maisie Dobbs series
Narrator: Rita Barrington
Run Time: 10 hrs
Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence–and the patronage of her benevolent employers–she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.
I had heard about this series through several of my online reading buddies who loved it – so when it was selected as a group read, I figured that it must have been a sign (since I didn’t really have any interest in either of the other books selected). I was looking forward to a lite mystery after reading a lot of dark, completely jacked up Nordic Noir mysteries and this was a great palate cleanser.
I loved the character of Maisie – she just seemed so unique in the current fiction world as it stands right now. And the time period is one of interest to me since there aren’t a lot of books written in the time period between WW1 and WW2 (that I have found). The mystery wasn’t so much of a mystery as a plot leading to a realization – or at least, that is how i saw it – while I didn’t know all the details that were revealed at the end, I had a 95% idea of what the result was going to be. But I honestly didn’t mind – for me, the best part of the book was seeing how Maisie Dobbs became Maisie Dobbs. The biggest surprise for me in the story was what happened to the love of her life during the war (but don’t worry, I try to keep my reviews spoiler free – so as not to ruin the book). It wasn’t what I was expecting and totally made me tear up.
However, one of my complaints was that while I liked that flashbacks were used – they were a bit chunky – I think the first flashback actually lasted a significant portion of the book – so when it jumped back to the present day I was a bit surprised/confused. I think it either would have been better to have broken the flash-backs up into some smaller portions – almost like an appetizer, rather than a whole entree – or write the first part of the book as her history up until when the mystery began. I think the former probably would have worked the best.
Unfortunately, my experience with the audiobook didn’t live up to the book itself and if I had had time, I might have stopped listening and read instead. I know that I nearly considered doing that with the rest of the series – because someone told me that the other books are narrated by someone else. I just did not enjoy the narrators voice. While I found that her female voices were passable – her male ones were like torture – I think I would have preferred a recitation rather than hearing her try to do male voices. It just didn’t work for me – which is unfortunately, because I think if done properly, this could have been a great audiobook (and the second one – review to follow in the future), was much improved. This is the first time that I have listened to anything by this narrator and it likely will be the last. I don’t think that I can fairly judge her on any other narrations after my feelings towards this one.
Overall, I’d give the book a solid 4 stars, but the narration only 1.5 – however, I do think that the book overall balanced out the mess of the narration – so 3.5 overall.