Friday, March 16, 2012

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: The Mapping of Love and Death
Author: Jacqueline Winspear

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1930s / Mystery / London / Private Investigator / Murder / post-WWI)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (4/22/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Yes -- and immediately wanted more!
One-sentence summary: In 1932, a former WWI nurse-turned-PI investigates the mysterious death of a WWI soldier.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- I believe Andrew Davidson is the illustrator for the whole series and I adore the vintage-y feel of the art as well as the imagery here. The focus of Maisie's investigation is a cartographer, and the two locales on the cover feature in the novel. Very nice details reflected here.

I'm reminded of...: Nicola Upson

First line: Michael Clifton stood on a hill burnished gold in the summer sun and, hands on his hips, closed his eyes.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Start reading this series, stat.

Why did I get this book?: I've long been curious about the Maisie Dobbs series, and last year, nomadreader called it her favorite Maisie Dobbs book to date.

Review: I hate coming in to a series midway, but after hearing nothing but raves for the Maisie Dobbs book, and this one in particular, I decided to plunge in and see what happened. I'm both sad and pleased I did so, because I had such a great time with this book, and I am desperate to start the series and get more Maisie.

When describing this to my wife, Masterpiece Theater/BBC-ish-ness is what I latched on to: Maisie is restrained, scarred by her experiences in World War I, in an era in which class and gender structures are being rigidly maintained and shaken up. (I kept recasting her in my mental film, since the only thing I'm fuzzy on is her age.) She's from of a working class family but had a unique opportunity to gain education, and as a result, she's aware of her place both 'upstairs' and 'downstairs'. I'm sure the theme of class straddling isn't new to the Maisie books, but I really liked that Winspear doesn't dismiss this after the first few books as I'm sure it colored and affected every aspect of Maisie's interactions.

The feel of the mystery runs more like Agatha Christie -- we're told about the crime, but we don't witness any gruesomeness, which I appreciate! -- but unlike Christie, this isn't a cagey whodunnit. I'm lazy with my mysteries -- I don't like to solve the crime -- so I appreciated that Maisie did the heavy lifting for me.

There's a romantic element to the story that I understand is a bit new and unusual for the series, which again I have mixed feelings about: on one hand, I love savoring it here, and I'm a bit sad I'll have to wait six books for it!; and on the other hand, I really appreciate that Winspear doesn't keep her 'formula' for these novels the same and force Maisie to remain without affection.

I'm being pretty vague on the plot because ultimately that wasn't what hooked me to the story. Like everyone has said, Maisie really is reason for reading, and I found her to be fascinating, intimidating, and appealing. I think one could read this story with no knowledge of the Maisie universe and be fine: Winspear offers tidbits that reference the previous books, and I never felt baffled or confused by a relationship she had.

Now I just have to decide: start with book one, or grab book 8 (A Lesson in Secrets)?

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As part of the March is Maisie Month Blog Tour, I have two giveaways! Both are for US/CA readers and close 3/30.

Enter to win a copy of The Mapping of Love and Death!

Enter to win a copy of the newest Maisie Dobbs novel, Elegy for Eddie!


  1. I've been wanting to read Jacqueline Winspear for a while now, so maybe I'll pick up the first one for a beach read for summer vacation. I love that time period and setting!

    1. Do it -- I read a ton of WWII fic but not much set in this era, esp with those who remember/were in WWI. So sad and sobering -- kind of mind blowing the way it changed life.

  2. I'm so glad you liked Maisie! One of the reasons I loved this one so much was that Maisie's personal life had such a large role. I've loved all of the Maisie novels (and fyi, Elegy for Eddie is amazing and probably my new favorite!) Regardless of how you read them, I think you'll especially enjoy the backstory in the first book. Also, I love that you recast Maisie in your mind too. I would so love for these books to become a Masterpiece Mystery series. Fingers crossed!

    1. My favorite part of crime tv shows is the snapshots and small slices of personal life we see -- so I really loved that in this one. That it took this many books to get there makes sense -- Maisie is clearly v self-contained and private and that her novels keep her life close-to-the-chest, so to speak, seems appropriate! Now I'm esp excited for Elegy for Eddie!!

    2. PS: I'm shocked this series hasn't been optioned yet. There's so much ambiance and moodiness and and and etc. :)

  3. A friend of mine sent me some of the books in this series. My mother grabbed them before I could read them. She loved them. I need to get them back from her to read.

    1. You really do -- this one was great. I so understand why all the Maisie love!

  4. I really think I made a mistake stopping after the first book, and will be requesting the second one soon based on everyone's overwhelming love for these books! Great review today! I am so glad you loved this one!

  5. Go back and start with the first book :-) The series should definitely be made into a series or mini-series. I'd watch.

  6. Have you read Laurie R. King's Mary Russell books? I'm wondering if the Maisie Dobbs series is in any way like those?

    Glad you finally gave Maisie a chance! Hopefully you'll have time to read more of her adventures.

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra.

  7. I haven't read anything by her yet but sure hope to!

  8. I cannot wait to read Lesson in Secrets for April Book Club. I'm excited, though my tour date for the book is coming this week!

  9. Audra - Please read the first book to understand Maisie's childhood journey which illuminate her motivations....I can't wait to continue with this lovely series! And you are so right -- what's wrong with production companies? Someone should jump on this and make it into a mini-series!! Loved reading your review!

  10. I'm so happy you lovbed this book! I have read some mixed review of the Maisie Dobbs books. I thought I'd learned long ago to trust my gut but apparently now because had I, I would have already started reading this series. I was hooked on Maisie the first time I read a description of her. She captivated me and I wanted to know more about her. I;m excited that snippets of her personal life are included in the books and it's not just about the crime she's trying to solve. It sounds like Winspear respects the social mores of the time perod and writes the story accordingly. I wonder if having been educated sometimes makes Maisie awareness of her place in society a little more difficult to stomach? I wonder if it also makes it more difficult to know where she belongs?

    I cannot wait to read Maisie's story! Must.Find.Some.Time.To.Read.More lolol
    thank you for a fantastic review and post, Audra

  11. I am starting A Lesson in Secrets (my first Maisie Dobbs) this evening, and I can't wait. I've heard nothing but good things about this series, so I'm sure that after I finish it for the TLC tour, I'm going to want to go back and start at the beginning. So glad to see you enjoyed it!

  12. Go back and start at the beginning. The first book is the weakest, I think, but it does provide the background for understanding Maisie's unusual station in life; you already know some things that will slightly spoil some of the other books so don't mess it up by reading them all out of order... like I did!