A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor

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A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A young woman called Tilly finds a diary belonging to a girl who lost her sister many years ago. Can she find out what really happened and solve the mystery?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: February 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0062316899

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The year is 1876 and two little orphaned flower girls wander barefoot through the crowded London streets selling posies of violets to the people passing by. The older sister, Florrie, walks with a stick for support, but keeps a tight grip on her little sister's hand at all times. Rosie, 'little sister', is blind and views eight-year-old Florrie as her 'little mother' The two are inseparable and share a deep bond that carries them through the hardships they face on a daily basis. Everything changes one fateful day when Florrie has her stick knocked from beneath her and little Rosie is snatched by one of the 'bad men'. Florrie searches frantically for Rosie, but she seems to have vanished. As the years pass, Florrie never gives up her search, eventually dying of a broken heart.

Years later, in 1912, a young woman called Tilly arrives in London to take up a position at Shaw's Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. She finds the young Florrie's diary and is immediately captivated by her story. Can she continue the search where Florrie left off and piece together the clues to find out what became of Rosie?

A Memory of Violets is a wonderfully written, haunting tale that encompasses many themes including sisterhood, regret, loss and new beginnings. The story is written in dual-perspective, alternating between Tilly's story and the diary of the young flower girl, Florrie. The author brings London to life with beautiful, evocative word pictures, so that the reader really can smell, touch and taste each scene.

Tilly is a likeable protagonist and I like the way that she is written as quite a flawed character, as it makes us root for her even more. At the beginning of the book, it is clear that she is running away from a terrible secret back home and as the book progresses, we are slowly drip-fed the details to form the bigger picture. When Tilly first meets the residents of the home, she sees only their disabilities, but as time goes on, she gets to know the girls individually and their disabilities seem to melt away. This makes an interesting contrast to her cool relationship with her sister, who is also crippled, but seems helpless in comparison with the fiercely independent girls who work at the home. The book also has a touch of sweet romance, but I liked the fact that this was a minor plot-line and didn't detract from the big themes of the story.

I found the story gripping and moving and some scenes almost brought me to tears; they were so tenderly written. Gaynor writes her characters and scenes so incredibly well that it is impossible not to get pulled in by the storyline. Suffice to say that I could not put this book down.

However, there were certain aspects of the book that I felt detracted from the story as a whole. Firstly, the author's decision to include a supernatural element to the storyline. I always feel a little cheated when this type of plot device is introduced, as it seems to dilute the plot somewhat. The story would have been much more powerful without it. Secondly, the conclusion, where everyone ended up being related or linked in some way, seemed a little too neat, to the point of feeling unnatural and contrived. That said, I know that a certain Mr Dickens used both of these plot elements in his books and it certainly didn't do him any harm!

I could write pages of gushing words about how brilliant this book is; Gaynor is a real talent with an eye for detail and I loved her writing style. I definitely want to read more of her books. The story also moved me to learn more about the real events behind the story and the wonderful philanthropist John Groom, who inspired the character of Albert Shaw and made a real difference to the lives of so many poor and destitute children.

Buy A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor at Amazon.com.


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