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Reviewed by A.D. Cole
Tilly Harper is more than happy to leave behind her mother and sister, her personal tragedies, and her reputation among the gossip-mongers of her home town. But as she arrives in London to begin her new position as housemother in one of the homes for disabled flower girls, she soon realizes that her guilt and grief will continue to torment her wherever she goes. And then she finds the diary of Flora Flynn.
A former housemother and flower girl, Flora once had a sister named Rosie. As Tilly reads the diary, she comes to see that Flora’s entire life was defined by her search for her sister who vanished at a very young age. Tilly comes to feel Flora’s presence in her life and is overwhelmed with a desire to reunite the two sisters. What Tilly finds in the process are answers to her own personal mysteries, as well as the truth that saving Flora and Rosie won’t assuage her guilt over her relationship with her own sister.
This story was a subdued read. The gothic aura and intertwining mysteries kept the pages turning. I enjoyed the exploration of the ideas of fate and destiny. There were times, though, when I felt the story was being skimmed over. For instance, Tilly arrives at the home of the flower girls and is understandably nervous. And then through a few paragraphs, we’re told that she has learned the details of each of her girls and has become friends with them. We don’t really get to see her relationships with the girls evolve. I think the story would have been better had there been less narration and more action…or as the advice goes, less telling and more showing.
As far as the historical context goes, this novel was an absolute treasure. In A Memory of Violets, Hazel Gaynor delves into a lesser-known corner of history. The novel centers around the very first Alexandra Rose Day, an event that continues to this day. Gaynor incorporates a fictionalized version of John Groom, a preacher who founded a charity organization to help the poor and disabled flower sellers. It was a well-researched, detailed historical setting. One of the things I want a historical fiction novel to do for me is excite me about a piece of history I’ve never heard about. This novel achieved that and I’ve been online reading more about John Groom and the flower sellers.
I would definitely recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction. There’s also a gothic quality to it, for fans of ghostly stories, though this certainly isn’t a horror novel. The novel takes place primarily in 1912, so if you’re a fan of the show Downton Abbey, you’ll appreciate the setting. And as a side note, there was also a lovely little romantic sub-plot, which I have to mention, being such a fan of romance. It definitely tugged at the heartstrings. Overall, this was a satisfying, historical read.
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.