Title: A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Genre: Contemporary w/Historical parts, Paranormal elements
ARC Received From: Edelweiss
Reviewed For: Tasty Book Tours
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Hazel Gaynor comes a beautiful historical novel about Tilly Harper, a young woman who finds the diary of an orphaned flower seller who was separated from her sister in Victorian England, and her journey to learn the fate of the long lost sisters. Gaynor’s research into the events that inspire her novels is outstanding, and the world of the Victorian flower sellers on the streets of London in the late 1800s is utterly fascinating.
In 1912, twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves her sheltered home in the Lake District for a position as assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. Orphaned and crippled girls wander the twisted streets with posies of violets and cress to sell to the passing ladies and gentleman, and the Flower Homes provide a place for them to improve their lives of hardship.
When Tilly arrives at Mr. Shaw’s safe haven, she discovers a diary that tells the story of Florrie, a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after being separated from her sister Rosie. Tilly makes it her mission to find out what happened to young Rosie, and in the process learns about the workings of her own heart.
I'm...not really sure what to write for my review. I asked to review this story because there was something about the synopsis that touched my heart yet I'm at a loss as to how I can sum up and rate this story.
I cried a lot while I read Flora's journal entries. Time didn't take away her memory of her lost sister; it increased her grief for not knowing her little sister's fate. She wrote about life when they were children, about her life as a flower girl in Mr. Shaw's Home, about the friends she made there, but she also wrote to Rosie. Sometimes she asked her sister questions, sometimes she wrote about how much she missed her. The connection stayed the same between Flora and her memories even as the years continued to roll by. My heart ached when I read those sentences because Flora never found closure. And I really wished she had.
Rosie's life, surprisingly, turned out rather well. She was found and raised by a lovely couple who had lost their own daughter to scarlet fever. They gave Rosie the life she needed, one filled with love and laughter and little to worry about. But she forgot about Flora. Memories she had of her former life faded into obscurity until Flora was little more than a figment of her imagination.
What connected Flora (the past) to Rosie (the present) was Tilly. She found Flora's journal after becoming a house mother at Mr. Shaw's Home, and I think it was a combination of the journal and her own relationship with her disabled sister that prompted her to try to find out what happened to Rosie. It actually didn't take much to put the pieces together. The real work came in breaking the news to the woman who had once been known as Rosie but was now known as Violette. How does Tilly, a stranger, let another woman know there is more to her past than she's been led to believe?
The POV in this novel flips between first and third, first being Flora, third being mainly Tilly but other secondary characters as well. The switches kept me reading, kept me wanting to know if the mystery would be solved and if closure would finally come. There is a little bit of paranormal elements in this story but it's nothing too freaky. Flora's presence is felt at times in Tilly's room until, at last, she finds peace by reuniting with her sister.
I hope you take a chance on this story. It's slow but there's so much to take in. It isn't the kind of story to breeze through. You'll want a few hours to take it all in. I'm glad I asked to review this. It's different from what I normally read, but the change was so welcome. I've read books that tug at my heart and demand that I react. This book... It made me react, made me want, made me hope.
Well done, Ms. Gaynor. If there is one thing I want to be able to say when I reach "The End" of a book it's to say that this book touched my heart, and I can say that about your book.
Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is her second novel.
Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.
Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.