Monday, February 9, 2015
Book Review: "A Memory of Violets" by Hazel Gaynor
Published: February 3, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
First off, doesn't this book just have a lovely cover? I'm not someone who takes too much notice of a book cover, but this one really grabbed me.
I was a little worried about this book going into it. Lately, I've been wanting the books I read to be a bit edgier and this one looked like it might be too, well, vanilla and sugar sweet. After finishing this book, I wouldn't say it is edgy, but it isn't saccharine (for the most part) either.
My knowledge of the flower girls of London was limited to Pygmalian and My Fair Lady (which, ironically, Gaynor says was the starting point for her in writing this book). I never thought of them as a large group and really just considered the likes of Eliza Doolittle to be girls who sold flowers.
Gaynor skillfully brings to life the hardships and poverty that these girls faced, many of whom were younger than my own daughter (who will turn 6 in less than a week). The true strength of this book is Gaynor's ability to craft a description so realistic it is almost tangible. There are 3 main "scenes of action" of this book--London, Clacton (near the sea), and the Lake District--and Gaynor brings each one to life.
I enjoyed the main characters of this book--Tilly, Florrie, Violette, and Mrs. Ingram. While I did feel at times that they were lacking depth, I still found their stories interesting enough that I could overlook them.
Gaynor put the pieces of the plot together like a puzzle and things fit just right. Normally, I would roll my eyes over this but Gaynor brings up a historical tidbit that makes it seem appropriate. Spiritualism--things like sceances and fortune-tellers--was very popular in England at this time and, with that filter over the lens, I can more easily buy how easily things come together. That being said, there is one twist that was just a bit too far for me to buy, and I didn't feel it was necessary for the plot. Fortunately for my reading experience, this twist comes at the end of the book, which made it easier for me to either forgive it or gloss over it.
All in all, this was an enjoyable read, even if I did have a few problems with the plots. Still this is book I would readily recommend to most readers with ample confidence that they would enjoy it.
Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the U.K. and was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers in 2012. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children, and an accident-prone cat.
Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.
Want a second opinion? Check out some of the other stops on the tour (link goes to the blog, not the review):
Tuesday, February 3rd: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, February 4th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 5th: FictionZeal
Friday, February 6th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, February 10th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Wednesday, February 11th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Thursday, February 12th: Unshelfish
Monday, February 16th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, February 17th: A Bookworm’s World
Wednesday, February 18th: Ms. Nose in a Book