1- 3. The Maisie Dobbs Series (Journey to Munich, In This Grave Hour, To Die But Once)
I’m addicted to this mystery series about a woman in the late 1920s who, through a series of smarts, luck, and life events has pulled herself up out of a job as a maid to become a respected detective. I devoured the last three titles of the series as my first reads of 2019. The series moves forward through time and, at book 15, is now in the middle of WW2, but there are shadows of the first war in almost every book as PTSD is a recurrent theme for almost all characters. Different titles deal with storylines about travellers, racism, the Spanish Civil War, art thieves, and fascism. These are cozy-style mysteries with no graphic sex or violence, and Winspear does a great job of mixing up Dobbs’ assignments, including some government spy work, so the books aren’t presented as straight-up Christie-style whodunnits. Wonderful for the historical fiction aspect, as well as the ongoing character development, and for the way in which Winspear makes each story relevant and appealing to modern day. The next title is released in March and I’m waiting impatiently.
4. My Plastic Brain
Williams is a British science journalist who spent a year studying and participating in various tests by neurologists to see if we can actually take advantage of the brain’s plasticity to learn new techniques and fight aging.
5. Platinum Doll
I’m not the biggest Jean Harlow fan, and this fictionalized account of her early years in Hollywood did nothing to make me more interested in her life. Felt very flat and clichéd (alcoholic husband, over-bearing stage mother, etc).
6. My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues
I wondered how Paul would flesh out a book about what is essentially a list, no different from this list I’m keeping here, only longer, as she started hers as a teenager and has maintained it into adulthood. She discusses life events and the books relating to those, tying in Bob itself with only middling success. There is a weird current of snobbery within Paul’s discussion of the classics and literary education; I came away feeling as if Paul perhaps negatively judged people who only read romances or mysteries or other genres written purely for entertainment value based on plot, and not big discussions of life and literary technique (I’m watching Les Misérables starring Dominic West on TV right now, I don’t need 1300 pages of some old French dude’s meandering thoughts on the philosophy of the second French revolution to know and enjoy the story). This essentially boils down to a memoir but Paul tells her own story with little commitment, discussing her hunger strike, life abroad, and the couple of near misses with being assaulted/kidnapped/raped while travelling alone as amusing anecdotes that she perhaps overheard at a party instead of the potentially traumatic events they must have been. I’d have been far more interested if My Life With Bob actually included the contents of Bob, since it was Paul’s effusive discussions of the books she loved, not her life events, that were the most interesting bits.