BOOK REVIEW: A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor


Title: A Memory of Violets
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Publication: February 3, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 432


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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.


A couple of years ago, I read a book by this author and fell in love with her as a Historical Fiction author.  Then a book club I was part of at the time picked another book by her and that just reinforced my love for her as an author.  Over time I have slowly collected her book here and there to add to my collection and eventually read.  So when I was picking out books for my book club I run, I knew I wanted to pick one of hers, the problem was which one!  Once I picked it I began to get excited to read it.

Tilly is on a journey.  She has taken a job as a housemother in a flower girl home.  She is nervous but ready for a new adventure.  She feels there is nothing left at home for her and its time to start afresh so to speak.  Florrie and Rosie are sisters.  They work as flower girls selling flowers on the streets of London basically living as street rats till fate separates them and they each get a fresh start at life.  Set in different years this book weaves the story of these sets of girls together and eventually, their stories merge into one.  This story was so eye-opening to the flower girls of London.  I knew bits and pieces here from various things I have read and history classes I have taken.  Also embarrassingly from such movies as My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. However, I was not aware of all the other issues that the girls faced.  

I loved the way that the author wove these two stories together.  I had a feeling there was a twist coming at the end but what I wasn’t prepared for was the ones that left me gasping.  I found myself wanting more of one story as I got into each of the storylines.  I would get peeved when the chapters changed because I was getting into one and then bam it changed again.  I loved everything about this book, it had a mystery, it had a romance, and it had character growth.  The author did a good job of filling in the blanks of the story with flashbacks to the other character and then back to the present with the other main character.  I think my favorite part of this book is the fact that the flower girls and the work homes and the work they did with the silk flowers and the man that helped them along the way is actually based on a real person in that time.  His work with the girls is documented and trackable. I have several more of this author’s books sitting on my shelf to read, one of them is a Titanic book and I cannot wait to read that one.  

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