Friday, February 13, 2015
A Memory of Violets...Review
“For little sister. . . . I will never stop looking for you.”
1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by each other’s presence. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.
1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London to become assistant housemother at one of Mr. Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the homes have cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, getting them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start, a chance to leave her troubled past behind.
Soon after she arrives at the home, Tilly finds a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her lost sister. 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.
Oh. My. Goodness. I've found my favorite book of the year and it's only February.
Florrie and Rosie Flynn do their best to survive the harsh slums of London by selling flowers in the streets. Many a night they sleep on those same streets to avoid their abusive father. Their life is wretched, deplorable and without hope, until one day they meet Mr. Albert Shaw, who has taken it upon himself to help the orphaned and crippled flower girls. Florrie looks after her little sister religiously until the day Rosie is snatched off the street. Mr. Shaw takes Florrie in and she lives and works in the flower home until her death, never ending the search for her sister.
Years later, Tilly comes to work at the flower home and finds Florrie's journal which details her life without Rosie. But where Florrie couldn't bear to live without Rosie, Tilly has left her home and doesn't want to look back. Her father is dead and her relationship with her mother and sister is difficult. After discovering Florrie's notebook, Tilly is drawn to her and vows to find out what happened to Rosie. But, as she faces Florrie's past, Tilly must also face her own.
I loved the alternating perspectives of Tilly and Florrie. The story flows well and the hardship and burden these children lived with is vividly captured here. The mystical element was soft and perfect for the story.
The novel is based on fact in that a man did, indeed, found homes for orphaned girls, many of whom were pitiful flower sellers. He gave them not only a home, but a purpose and trained them in a skill. I was unaware that such homes even existed, but then, my knowledge of flower girls in London pretty much begins and ends with Eliza Doolittle. The historical aspect here is rich and I enjoyed the notes at the end of the book.
Hazel did a fantastic job of capturing the time, the poverty and despair. This isn't an inherently happy story, but it's not miserable either. It's truly lovely. What Hazel does capture most of all, is the happiness that these girls felt as they began to believe they had value, Tilly included. A beautiful story of love and forgiveness. Now, I want to plant violets this spring.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Hazel Gaynor here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.
* * * * *