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I enjoy Jacqueline Winspear's fiction. I was not sure that I would enjoy this book as much. However I really found it a good read and very moving in parts. One of the reasons was that some of the experiences were familiar to me. I was born in London in 1944 and my parents had to take me underground during the bomb attacks. We also did not have a wide range of food and drinks during the war. My mother was a nurse and my father worked in a factory so both remembered how hard it was to live in London then especially with a young baby. I would recommend this book to people like me who were alive during the period the author writes about and also those who would be interested in finding out more about this period in detail.
5.0 out of 5 starsA collection of stories in her mother's storytelling tradition
Reviewed in the United States on November 22, 2020
I really enjoyed reading about the childhood of one of my favorite authors. This "memoir" is not a coherent, introspective remembering of a life. Rather, it is a seemingly random collection of stories, starting with her grandparents, which both fascinate and inform the reader about the struggles, physical , emotional and social that burdened Brits post WWI & II. As the stories move from her mother's large family to center on her unconventional parents, she constantly repeats how much she loves her parents, even as it becomes evident that something is very wrong with how she is loved back. Her father is a lovely man, taking time with her to walk around the countryside looking at the wonders of nature, or waking in the night to watch the night sky. The evocative descriptions of their "adventures" living in a caravan, picking hops and fruit in the countryside and even the more uncomfortable truths of the living conditions they endured inform any reader wondering about post WWII life. "Jack" narrates the many trials, endless hard work and small joys of her life with a blind loyalty to her family. This strong emotional detachment colors the book with optimism, even as we the reader start to wonder how that remains intact.
We never get the happily ever after...we are left with deathbed scenes for each of her parents, with Jack and her brother living in California. Winspear does revisit her blanket acceptance of her mother and her mother's mistreatment of her, but only challenges her retrospectively through one of her stories, leaving the door open for all sorts of unanswered questions only hinted at in the book. While we know all along how self-centered her parents were, the picture of her alone on her 21st birthday heartbreaking, we are glad we know that eventually, after so many intervening years, Winspear forged a life as a incredibly successful writer (and got her horse), for which we, her readers, are grateful!
Reviewed in the United States on November 28, 2020
I have enjoyed every book in the Maisie Dobbs series and I have also read Ms. Winspear’s other novels. She never disappoints. Her characters are well drawn and the narrative compelling. Therefore, I was sad that I could just not get into this book. While her reminiscences of her family are tender, much of the book rambles from one stage to another. She starts down one avenue, then backtracks. I can see where she drew on her childhood to flesh out the characters, settings and story lines of the Maisie Dobbs series, but this memoir leaves me wondering if those fiction works would better serve as the legacy of her life, instead of this somewhat disjointed effort.
Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2020
The memoir was excellently written -- the details and descriptions and privations of her childhood years were exceptional -- I felt like I was there. It was obvious some of her childhood has made it into some of her books - especially the hops picking. I remember in one of the Maisie Dobbs' books that Eddie and his family picked hops. Ms. Winspear is a captivating writer. I'm so glad that a friend of mine recommended the Maisie Dobbs' books to me several years ago. I have read all and am hoping there will be another soon. I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it as well as all of her books.