Reviewed May 10, 2012.
Penguin Books, 2003. 294 pages.
This book is about Maisie Dobbs, a brilliant girl who was discovered studying on her own and sent to Cambridge by the upper-class family where she was serving. Now, between the wars, she is a Psychologist and Investigator. Her first case is to find out if a wife is straying -- but ends up focusing on a Retreat for soldiers scarred in the Great War.
The middle of the book tells how Maisie got her start and how she interrupted her education to serve as a nurse during the war, and how she got her own scars.
Liz's review is excellent, so I don't have a lot to add. But one thing that was interesting to me was how much of the book paralleled another book I just read, The Return of Captain John Emmett, by Elizabeth Speller. Both were set about ten years after World War I, in England. Both involved a supposed haven for wounded or psychologically damaged soldiers. Both had things happen during the war that left lifelong scars to those involved. However, I have to admit that Maisie Dobbs is much more pleasant reading, and didn't go into nearly as much detail about the awful things that happened during the war. The protagonist in The Return of Captain John Emmett is jaded himself about what he saw and just going through the motions of life. Maisie, on the other hand, has been through some awful experiences, but she is using her clever mind to help people and make things right. This book fits the description of a "cozy" mystery, while the other one had too much grim reality to fit that category. However, you do get the same feeling of what things were like after World War I, and how everything was poised to change.
I'll definitely be reading more books in this series. Maisie Dobbs is someone I enjoy spending time with.