Maisie Dobbs, Messenger of Truth

I recently finished listening to the latest Maisie Dobbs novel on audio, Messenger of Truth. Now I have to wait for Winspear to publish the next novel before I can read any more Maisie Dobbs! And then I have a dilemma — do I read the book when it comes out, or do I wait for the audio version to get made and delivered to my library? I’m so used to listening to these books that sitting down and actually reading one won’t feel right. And I do love to listen to the readers with their accents and inflections — hearing the book in my head in my own voice as I read quietly will be a different experience entirely. But it could be quite a while before the audio comes out. So, I have no idea what I’ll do.

You’ll probably guess from the above that I liked the latest Maisie Dobbs novel. Winspear explores a new theme in this one: art and the artist. The crime victim is a painter who painted scenes from World War I that many people found disturbing and controversial. So Maisie gets to spend some time thinking about art’s function and purpose, how people react to ground-breaking and controversial art, and what motivates artists to create what they do. She also gets to question traditional stereotypes of artists — that they aren’t practical or worldly or capable — since the artist she is investigating doesn’t quite live up to the stereotype.

She also finds herself caught up in a social scene full of artists and bohemians, and she has to think about how she does and doesn’t fit in. She feels both drawn to them and a little uncertain how to act in this new world of night clubs and parties and dancing. Experiencing this mix of emotions, she is forced to think about her longing for a little excitement and even frivolity, qualities that have been largely absent from her life.

As always, the story is absorbing and fun, and Maisie saves the day!

At the end of the audio book was an interview with Winspear, and one of the questions was about the research she does to prepare for the books. It was quite fascinating to hear what she had to say. She described being interested in the post-WW I time period for a very long time, so that she has been doing research for the books even when not working on them directly. She described reading archival letters from soldiers writing to family back home and realizing that she might be the first person reading them after the original recipient. These letters help her in her quest to get the language just right; she works very hard to make sure the characters in her novels speak as people at the time spoke. She also works hard to get the clothing and accessories right (which explains all those mentions of clothing I was complaining about in an earlier post!), and to give the novels a sense of time and place by working historical events into the narrative.

And she spoke about how Maisie is a typical woman of her day in the sense that she is one of the many “surplus” women, left without a husband or lover after the war and forced to make a new kind of life for herself. Some women never adapted to these demands, but others, like Maisie, took on new challenges like owning businesses and becoming professionals of various sorts.

Maybe what I should do is read the book and then listen to the audio afterwards … that would be fun.


Filed under Books, Fiction

16 responses to “Maisie Dobbs, Messenger of Truth

  1. Cee

    I have just been listening to “Maisie Dobbs” as an audio book, and have been enjoying it very much – it is the sort of book that suits being read out loud, I think. I am up to the last few chapters, and have put the next one (also as an audio book) on hold at the library. It is a really interesting period of history, and all the little details Winspear includes made it seem very accurate to me – I’m glad they are well researched πŸ™‚


  2. I only rarely listen to audiobooks. I agree that hearing the words spoken is a very different experience than hearing them in my head, but I find that that only works if I’ve not read the book first. As you’ve listened to one already that may not affect you now if you read the next book before you listen to the audio version.

    I’ve only read one Maisie Dobbs book so far. I really liked it and was fascinated by what Winspear said in the interview (another reason for listening to an audio version). I used to work in a Record Office (archives, not music!) and loved the idea that I was reading letters etc that had not been touched for over 100 or more years! I’m particularly interested in the 1940s/50s just now and this inspires me to do some research myself into the period.


  3. I loved the first two Maisie Dobbs novels but have got stuck as for some unknown reason I’m not sure about the setting for the third. I feel less drawn towards it, but I’m sure that’s a misapprehension and it will be as good as the others once I get going.


  4. Clearly, the best solution presents itself: read the book, out loud, in front of a recording device. Then you can listen to the book on tape immediately – no waiting. You could even put the audio here, so we could all enjoy your reading whenever the whim hit us. What do you think?


  5. I think it would be fun to listen to these books on tape. It would be a nice combination of setting, and suspense and all with that lovely British accent thrown in. The interview sounds really interesting (something you don’t get in a book)–I’d love to do research in this era, which I find fascinating anyway–but then get to write about it in a mystery setting, which would be fun. It’s sort of sad to think of all those voices behind those letters are now long forgotten. Now we know why all those little details have been added to the story. I think her new book comes out in March or April.


  6. I’ve never listened to an entire audio book. I’ve tried two separate times because I thought it would be nice while exercising or cleaning house. However, I couldn’t get into it either time. I don’t know if it was the book or the fact that it was on audio.

    Either way, I think I will try the Maisie Dobbs novels. I’ve looked at them before I didn’t know if I’d like them or not. From your description, I’m pretty sure I will. Thanks for the review.


  7. I’ve never read a Maisie Dobbs book, but you make them sound so fun I might just have to break down sometime and give one a try!


  8. Cee — isn’t it lovely on audio? I think getting the British accents adds something to the experience. If you are listening to the same ones I listened to, be aware, though, that the readers change from one book to the next. It took me a while to adjust.

    Booksplease — what an interesting job that must have been! It sounds like it would be fun to be surrounded by all those old materials.

    Litlove — the third one does feel a bit different than the first two … it has a different mood somehow, especially when she goes over to France.

    Bikkuri — yes, that would work … but, you’d have to listen to my American accent! And what fun would that be?! So much of the pleasure of listening to these books comes from getting the British accent.

    Danielle — good to know about the new book, and yes, aren’t all the historical details fun? She does such a good job of capturing what life was like in that time, particularly in the last one, I think.

    Lisa — I hope you enjoy them! I’ve listened to a couple audiobooks that just didn’t work, so it might be the book. But I can see that some people might just not like listening to books, period. For me, it works best if I listen in the car; somehow the enclosed space of the car puts me in the right mood.

    Stefanie — oh, I’m guessing you’d like the books — they are fun and satisfying stories.


  9. Yay, so glad you enjoyed this one. I’m anxiously waiting for the new book which won’t be out for a while yet. I got to see Winspear at the Texas Book Festival last year and she talked about the surplus women. Very interesting. I’m so curious what Maisie’s next adventure will be.


  10. Maybe you could do a fake British accent. It might be amusing while we are waiting for the official tapes. πŸ˜‰

    All this talk of books on tape remind me of a friend who was trying to listen to a particularly captivating series of books while driving to California. She found she couldn’t focus on traffic safety and had to pull over to finish a story. I can just imagine if State Patrol stopped to see if she needed help. “No sir, I’ll be fine as soon as my story finishes. Shhhh…”


  11. I love the Maisie Dobbs books. I don’t think reading them first hand will diminish your enjoyment of them in any way. I love generating the image of a character in my brain.

    If you are interested in reading more about women in Maisie’s position ie. single after the first world war I noticed the other day there is a new non fiction book out called “Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War” by Virginia Nicholson. I am keen to get a copy myself.


  12. Iliana — I’m jealous that you got to see Winspear!

    Bikkuri — trust me, my fake British accent would be painful to listen to … trust me.

    Possum Magic — I’m sure you’re right that reading them would be just as much fun. And thanks for the book recommendation — it sounds fascinating.


  13. Litlove: I found the third Maisie Dobbs book noticeably weaker than the first two. The latest, “Messenger of Truth”, matched the standard of the original, I thought.


  14. Funny, I just finished listenting to this one, too (I haven’t yet read the second and third ones, so have them to look forward to, but this was all our library have). I read the first one, and I have to say, I’m with you on listening to these. I preferred listening to it, as the narrater was so good. I have a feeling that if you do end up reading it, you may hear it in her voice. I was fascinated by that interveiw with Winspear at the end, especially, as you note, her meticulous research.


  15. No, I haven’t been drinking. Don’t know why that comment is so FULL of typos. Must be that the topic excites me.


  16. I think you’re right about the voice — that accent will be running through my head! Wasn’t the interview great?


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