Recommendation: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
February 19, 2006
I have an adult novel to recommend today. This weekend I finished reading Jacqueline Winspear's third Maisie Dobbs mystery, Pardonable Lies (following Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather). To call these books mysteries is almost a misnomer. Not that they aren't puzzling and suspenseful - they are - but they offer much more. These books include in-depth studies of character and motivation. They are historical novels that make the reader ache with sadness over the losses of World War I. They are about a woman struggling to maintain her own business, in a time when this was quite unexpected. They are about rising above a poor background to become educated and respected, and then straddling the line between two worlds.
I think that Pardonable Lies is the best of the series so far. Maisie, with the help of her reliable assistant Billy, investigates three different cases, all of which stir echoes from Maisie's past. Two of the cases require her to re-visit painful memories of the war (she was a battlefield nurse in France), while in the third she identifies with a vicitimized child. In the course of investigating these cases, she finds her life threatened by unseen enemies. The relentless pressure from the demons of the past and of the present push Maisie hard. I found myself indentifying so closely with Maisie while reading this book that I felt a bit vulnerable myself. I love a book that pulls me in so deeply.
I hesitate to say more, because I don't want to spoil the book. But if you like mysteries about strong female characters, or you like historical fiction, especially World-War-I era stories, you should absolutely read this series. Be sure to start with Maisie Dobbs, the first book in the series, so that you'll know Maisie's full background.
You can also visit Jacqueline Winspear's website. I found it particularly interesting to read that "Jacqueline’s grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at The Battle of the Somme in 1916, and it was as she understood the extent of his suffering that, even in childhood, Jacqueline became deeply interested in the "war to end all wars" and its aftereffects." Perhaps this is why Maisie's grief, and the grief of those around her, feels so true to life in these books.
Pardonable Lies was a gift from my wonderful friend Liz, with whom I've shared many book discussions over the years. I hope that you enjoy it, too! -- Jen
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.