Book Review : A Lesson In Secrets, A Maisi Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear
The Maisie Dobbs novels span from the end of WWI to the cusp of WWII in the most recent addition, A Lesson In Secrets. I have been very interested in this series because it addresses the social situation in England rather than the military stratagem. This series also explores the breaking down of the Monarchical era and the role of women. Overall, I have enjoyed this series though I find the tone to be slightly melancholy and dearly hope that Maisie will find a greater joy in her drab existence. I also question the authenticity of anyone exploring Eastern thought in England in the early 1900′s though the language will sound familiar to anyone who has followed the “New Age” trend in current times.
Maisie Dobbs is still mourning the loss of her beloved instructor Maurice, and thinks of him as she accepts a new assignment working on a case for the Secret Service. Maisie takes on the position of a junior lecturer at a private college to assess the tone of the teachers and students to see if there are any “threats to the crown”. While there the college’s founder is murdered which leads to an unraveling of layers upon layers of secrets. Back at Maisie’s office there are other storms brewing that she cannot fully take care of herself.
One of Maisie’s hardest things to face is her own relationship with James Compton. She is riddled with fears unwilling to accept that happiness possible.
I am still considering if I find it plausible that a respectable woman, that has had to work against the establishment and had such a stalwart upbringing would actually jeopardize her position by having sexual relations with James, who professes to love her. James Compton has grown from the spoiled boy of privilege, who took no thought of the repercussions for a casual sexual relation with a serving girl, to a man of deep consideration. I have to ask, would James have treated Maisie so casually by having sex with her after his previous experience? The early 1900′s had a double standard that it was acceptable for men to be sexually active, but a woman who behaved in the same way was a tramp. I cannot see sensible Maisie being a tramp, even if she did bob her hair like a flapper. I would have been more comfortable if Maisie and James had married rather than sleeping together because of the historical time frame and I thought each character would show more caution wanting to protect themselves. I think the modern standard of sexuality was used when writing this relationship.
A Lesson In Secrets was a satisfying read full of twists and layers of complexity. As always I feel saddened by the atrocities of war that continue to be revealed. Man’s inhumanity to man is always shocking. We can always hope that our government will learn that secrets will be told and it is best to live a life worth knowing. I particularly enjoy historical fiction because it makes history come alive.