Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, Book 2)
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Enjoyment Rating:
Source: Audible Book
Referral: One of my Study Abroad friends told me about the first book in the series and I was hooked.
Books I've read in 2011: 113

It's now been way too long since I read Birds of a Feather to remember it well, but I found it a completely enjoyable, delightful novel. Once again, Maisie is called into service to solve a mystery (this time she's trying to find the adult daughter of a grocery-chain mogul). It turns out that the daughter's disappearance is related to a host of other deaths and disappearances, and eventually Maisie works to tie up all the apparently unrelated cases. I've been reading Stephen King's writing memoir (review to come) and was impressed by what he had to say about how symbolism can enhance a story. He says (and I'm probably paraphrasing badly) that symbols don't have to be esoteric or elaborate, and that they're often something he sees during the revision process, not during a first writing. In Birds of a Feather, Winspear uses birds and feathers (get it?) as her main symbol, and she does it beautifully. I don't expect to see symbolism in mysteries, and it works here to great effect. In fact, it might have worked a little too well, because once I caught on to the symbols, it wasn't hard for me to figure out who the murderer was. However, that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book (it just made me feel really smart).

I've been surprised as I've read these books (I'm almost done with the fifth one now) about what a great preoccupation World War I was in England at this time. Although a dozen years have passed since the end of the war, it feels like it ended yesterday. Most of the deep, meaty issues Winspear tackles are directly related to things that happened during the war. If this is a realistic portrayal of England at the time, I'm getting quite an education on the effects of this event, but it seems as if so much hearkens back to the war that it's almost unbelievable. In fact, I'm looking forward to when Dobbs books don't have such a preoccupation with war.

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