Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins | William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 432 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; ARC
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Summary (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.
Thoughts on A Memory of Violets
I was excited when I found a copy of A Memory of Violets in my mailbox. I love historical fiction, and I'd been wanting to give Hazel Gaynor a try. This focuses on two different stories - one in 1912 and one in 1876. In 1912, Tilly Harper leaves her home in the Lake District to become an assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw's Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. The place was created to provide a place of refuge for orphaned and crippled children living on the streets who make a living selling flowers. There is tragedy in Tilly's past, and she accepts the position believing that this is her chance for a new life. When she arrives, she learns the story of her room's former occupant, a young woman named Florrie.
The 1876 storyline concerns Florrie and her sister, Rosie. Florrie is an orphaned flower girl who lives on the streets with Rosie until they are tragically separated one day. Tilly is told that Florrie died without ever finding her sister, but Tilly thinks she might be able to find out what happened to Rosie. She begins looking for clues, putting together the pieces... and hoping to learn the truth. Her own personal journey - to overcome past mistakes and find forgiveness - overlaps nicely with Florrie's story.
My favorite thing about A Memory of Violets was the setting. I've always loved the movie My Fair Lady, but I'd never read anything set during that time period and focusing on flower girls. I was excited to learn more about this aspect of history, and I can definitely say that this book whet my appetite for stories about flower girls. It was so sad to read about what they went through, and I thought Florrie and Rosie's story was the most compelling one in the book. That being said, the book started really slow. I was unsure of the story at first and hoped to become more invested. Thankfully, I found my groove with the book by the time I got to part two.
Aside from the pacing, I felt like the writing was too descriptive and detail heavy at times. I became more invested in the characters and in their stories, but I never loved the writing. The plot was a little predictable and the ending a bit too coincidental, and yet I still liked this story. I don't usually enjoy books that shift between multiple time periods, but I think it worked in A Memory of Violets. While I preferred Florrie and Rosie's story, I still found Tilly's intriguing and was pleased with the way she resolved some of her relationship issues.
I can think of a number of things that bothered me while reading A Memory of Violets, but I did think it was a sweet and heartwarming read. I doubt that I'll think of it again, as I did find it forgettable once I turned the last page, but I was invested in the story while I was reading. If the summary appeals to you, I'd tell you to give it a shot - especially since the setting was my favorite aspect of the book.