A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

It’s time for the next Maisie book… and the last, for the time being. This one just came out in late March, giving us readers-along just long enough to obtain, read, and blog about it. Again, this is part of the Maisie Dobbs Read-Along hosted by Book Club Girl.

While enjoyable in the same Maisie Dobbs way – and not least because I’m familiar with her and her world, and familiarity often breeds comfort and contentment – this book failed to really grasp my interest. In fact, I wanted to put it down in favor of other things (not permanently, just… for a bit), but had to finish it for this read-along date today. To have to make myself read a book is not a strong endorsement! What was wrong? Well, I missed James Compton, for one thing. Or, I missed Maisie having any romantic action. I know James was in her life, in theory, but he wasn’t an active player for much of the book. And her discomfort with the postmark issue and the suspicions it caused her just made me impatient. We’ve spent too much time watching Maisie be hesitant and unsure. I am bored. She needs to do something different to keep me entertained in this arena. She needs to become engaged or become a lesbian or swear off men or be promiscuous or something. I am bored.

Billy’s reduced role hurt me, too. I like Billy and his family and the change of tone they impart. I guess this book saw Maisie alone onstage a lot more, and that might have been a little bit too one-note for me. We got Sandra, a little bit, but I don’t find her to be a well-developed character. It’s all well and good for Winspear to take Maisie off into a new environment with new players; but I don’t think she exploited its possibilities to the fullest. For example, I would have been interested to read about students and philosophy and Maisie’s experience as a teacher. As the daughter of a teacher (and a sometimes-teacher myself), it definitely did not ring true for me that she just waltzed into the classroom and casually picked up teaching (at the university level, no less) without missing a beat; we didn’t see her struggle with the new responsibilities at all. It would have been more realistic if she had.

I didn’t hate this book, and I’m sure some of the fellow read-along participants loved it (will be by to check it out in a bit), so, sorry… but A Lesson in Secrets failed to draw me in. This series is ending for me in a sort of vague trailing off, rather than with a bang or an anxiousness for the next installment. That said, I will almost certainly pick it up if and when it comes out, because I’m not THAT upset. But this is a weak finish-for-now, in my book.

3 Responses

  1. […] finally, the bookish news: I finished Jacqueline Winspear’s A Lesson in Secrets, started Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (review to come), and listened to the audio of Kurt […]

  2. I agree with many of your assessments here, especially the one about teaching. It’s just not that easy!

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