A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The author of the USA Today and New York Times bestselling novel The Girl Who Came Home has once again created an unforgettable historical novel. Step into the world of Victorian London, where the wealth and poverty exist side by side. This is the story of two long-lost sisters, whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.
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.
So when this book arrived for review, my mum couldn't resist and she wanted to review it for me. Here is her review:
Such a lovely well written novel; as a Londoner and former florist who was a regular 4am visitor to old Covent Garden I could almost smell the flowers in this book. I remember the hustle and bustle of the early morning traders, cupping and blowing into my frozen fingers and feeling the warmth of tea or hot chocolate to keep out the cold, banging my frozen feet on the ground waiting while my father bartered with the sellers and then loading boxes of flowers onto our van ready to take back to our shop to sell. All these long forgotten memories came flooding back to me as I read about Flora and Rosie the little orphaned flower sellers. Good storytellers evoke memories and Hazel Gaynor definitely did this for me with A Memory of Violets.
Covent Garden has changed quite a bit now but when I was a child it must have been unchanged from the late 1800's and I could easily picture Flora and Rosie picking up fallen flowers and watercress to make into posies to sell to the gentry. Because I felt such a connection this was quite a special read for me. I loved how the whole story was bought together by Tilly Harpers' story and how she fitted into the novel to help find the missing little flower sellers' sister.
I don't want to retell the story or give away any spoilers to this beautiful heartwarming and often heart wrenching story so you'll have to trust me and read it yourself but I can say that you won't be disappointed. It is even more poignant when you remember that life really was like this for so many children at the turn of the century, never knowing if they would eat, having no where warm and safe to live, being terrified of the Work House and having to work as soon as they were able. I'm sure Flora's story was not uncommon and many young girls suffered the deprivation and hardship of poverty, many died young, lost their families and spent their lives searching for their siblings on the often cruel streets of London. This novel is so much more than a work of fiction and that is what for me makes this such a good piece of writing.
Tilly, Flora and Rosie will stay with me for a long time, I am so glad I read this book and so glad that I was not born in the late 1800's
I have to give this book 5 stars.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.