A Memory of Violets: Historical fiction set in London in the late 1800s
Set in London in the late 1800s, this novel tells the story of a young woman who gets a housekeeping job at a home that attempts to help the orphaned girls that sell flowers on the street corners. She discovers a diary left by a young Irish girl and becomes obsessed with trying to find out what happened to her. Part light mystery, part light romance.
A Memory of Violets, Hazel Gaynor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2015, 432 pages
This book has been on my Kindle for years so I decided it was time to move it off my TBR! I really like when historical novels shine a light on an aspect of history that I know nothing about. I was unfamiliar with the circumstances of the little girls who tried to earn pennies selling posies on the street corners. It was a very grim period and those children had little hope of rising out of their poverty.
The book is part lightweight mystery (trying to figure out what happened to the Irish orphan), part lightweight romance and part feel good story. The “mystery” becomes somewhat convoluted and is basically relationship based – who is related to whom? The romance is slight and mostly fluff and adds nothing to the story. The feel-good part is about a wealthy man who takes it upon himself to help the children.
For me, the best part of this story was learning about the orphaned or crippled little girls that sold posies on street corners to try to survive and the charity that is created to help them rise above their poverty. It’s heartwarming to have a caring, wealthy patron who builds housing and provides schooling and eventual employment for the girls.
I enjoyed the historical context and the two time frames in the story (1880 and 1912) as well as the dialog that felt true to the era. However, I don’t know why authors are compelled to add some sort of romance to a Victorian era story, but this one was unnecessary. Also, I felt like none of the characters had much depth. There were friends and a long lost sister, but all of the relationships lacked any connection for me.
This is a very average book. You might enjoy it if you like a Victorian-era feel-good story.
photos by Terrie Purkey