So I figure the only thing to do to find my words again, is to simply start writing and see what happens!
During this most recent blue funk, when writing left me and reading seemed too hard, I pulled out my next Maisie Dobbs book. She has seen me through quite a few meh times already. And I had high hopes this time around.
Maisie did not fail me.
But a double dose was required.
Leaving Everything Most Loved is book #10 in Jacqueline Winspear's cosy crime series. It is now 1933 and Winspear deftly weaves a modern day issue into her historical fiction. Scotland Yard requires Maisie's help to solve the problem of two murdered Indian women. The impact of racism, colonialism and the class system (in both England and India) all come under scrutiny via Winspear's more familiar themes of belonging, self-reflection and the lingering after effects of trauma and prejudice.
Maisie spends a lot of time analysing her own thoughts and behaviours as well as employing this skill to help her solve each case. Up until the past couple of books, Maisie was making progress. Her use of psychology, intuition and meditation was interesting.
However, I do feel that Winspear has now got bogged down with the romance between Maisie and James Compton. We all want Maisie to be happy in love, but at the same time, getting married and settling down with a family wont work for future story lines. Curiously part of the success of these stories is Maisie's continuing misery. What will happen to the series if Maisie finally finds happiness?
How can Winspear solve this dilemma?
Will the solution be found in India?
I for one couldn't leave it there.
I had to know what happened to Maisie next.
Would she move to Canada and marry James? Would she still be solving crimes? In India? Canada? Or back in London?
I knew that #11 A Dangerous Place was going to seriously mix things up right from the start.
Suddenly it is 1937 and Maisie is in Gibraltar.
Four years have gone by and she is still being referred to as Miss Dobbs.
A quick flashback via some letters and newspaper articles fill us in on the continuing misery of Maisie. I confess I nearly cried.
Unlike many of Maisie's loyal followers, though, I wasn't disappointed by this great leap forward.
Winspear had to do something dramatic to change the direction of the series. Maisie had reached an emotional stalemate at the end of the previous book. Whatever came next had to propel the series onto a new level or wrap things up for good.
I never bought the whole James and Maisie romance - it felt too convenient. And I was still holding a torch for Detective Richard Statton who rode off into the sunset with his young son and the end of book 8.
Bringing us closer to WWII politicking and the double-dealing of spies, was a smart move by Winspear. It may have been a bit clunky in execution, but it's what the series needed.
A Dangerous Place refers to the Spanish Civil War and the fate of refugees. I like how Winspear is gently drawing a line between historical events and current world affairs.
Obviously a new war will give Maisie plenty of opportunity to reflect on and confront her experiences as a WWI nurse. However, her ongoing angst is getting a little tired (although more than understandable), so I do hope that Winspear allows Maisie some psychological and emotional peace soon.
One of the problems with books in a series, is the author's habit of recapping previous events in each new book. It bugs me no end. Unfortunately Winspear is prone to it too. If a little reminiscence popped up naturally in the dialogue or an obvious link connected two of the cases, then fine, but the rehash for the sake of the rehash is just plain annoying for regulars of the series.
The few times I have unwittingly picked up a book from the middle of a series, the not knowing why things are happening, was the impetus I needed to go back and start the series from the beginning.
The Maisie books are not without their flaws, but if I had had #12 on hand, I would have started reading it straight away. (I did read the extract from Journey to Munich that was included at the end. It revealed a small leap forward to early 1938 and a Richard Statton teaser!)
There is something dependable and reassuring about Maisie. She is the perfect choice for a blue funk, a rainy Sunday afternoon or to ease a stressed out day.
I'm not completely done with this particular blue funk, but it is abating thanks to Maisie.
I'm also a little in love with Andrew Davidson's iconic wood engraving covers.
Maisie Dobbs #1
Maisie Dobbs #2 Birds of a Feather
Maisie Dobbs #3 Pardonable Lies
Maisie Dobbs #4 Messenger of Truth
Maisie Dobbs #5 An Incomplete Revenge
Maisie Dobbs #6 Among the Mad
Maisie Dobbs #7 The Mapping of Love and Death
Maisie Dobbs #8 A Lesson in Secrets
Maisie Dobbs #9 Elegy for Eddie
Maisie Dobbs #10 Leaving Everything Most Loved
Maisie Dobbs #11 A Dangerous Place
Maisie Dobbs #12 Journey to Munich
Maisie Dobbs #13 In This Grave Hour
These 2 books are 1 & 2 for my #20booksofsummer (winter) challenge.