Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Leaving Everything Most Loved (Maisie Dobbs #10)
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Audible (although I also bought a hard copy for myself)
This book would be rated: PG-13 for violence

On my last day in China, once we found my phone (which Rose had hidden in the room service menu, and which I had gone all over the city, trying to pantomime "lost phone" to people who undoubtedly thought I was crazy), I checked my email and was delighted to learn that Leaving Everything Most Loved was waiting in my Audible queue. If you've been reading my reviews for some time, you know that I am Jacqueline Winspear's biggest fan. If I could wake up and occupy a fictional character's life for a day, I would choose Maisie Dobbs. However, I was also quite disappointed in Elegy for Eddie, the previous book in the series, and I felt like this book would either make me go sour on Dobbs or it would make me fall in love with her all over again.

Reading the Maisie Dobbs books is like taking a master class in internal and external conflict. As a psychologist and investigator, there is plenty of plot in these novels. In Leaving Everything Most Loved, Maisie is working to solve two separate investigations, one involving the double murder of two Indian women living in a boarding house run by a missionary couple, the other the case of a missing boy with an invalid mother and a father who is acting decidedly weird about the whole situation. And then there's the side story, now into the fourth book, I think, about Maisie's relationship with James Compton. Maisie and James grew up in the same house-- Maisie as a maid, and James as the son of the master, and this provides a lot of tension in how she perceives herself and her freedoms within the relationship. There's also the backdrop of history-- Leaving Everything Most Loved takes place in 1933, and while the WWI stories have receded into the background, WWII and Hitler are on the horizon, and James's work in aeronautics and bombs has Maisie decidedly uneasy.

While Winspear does a great job keeping readers involved in all of these plot elements, the reason why I keep coming back to the stories is because of what is going on in Maisie's head. The book is expertly narrated by Orlagh Cassidy, and I love hearing her read her way through Maisie's thoughts, her prejudices, and what she's learning in the process of solving crime (she does have a slightly annoying habit-- Maisie, not Cassidy, of trying to correct people that I'm not sure she is aware of). Anyway, while I think that some readers might consider this novel a bridge between Maisie's resolve in the last novel not to marry James and to go out and find herself, and the next, in which she will do the finding in India, I wasn't disappointed by the way that the overarching story moved forward only incrementally. But I do have a suggestion for Ms. Winspear-- I know exactly how to end the next novel: "YES STOP."

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