A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor


violetsIn 1912, Tilly Harper leaves her home in the Lake District to work as a housemother at the Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London.  Tilly works hard to maintain the house and look after the disabled young women in her charge, who are employed at a charitable factory making silk flowers.  She discovers an old diary in her bedroom which was written by one of the little flower girls rescued by the charity.  This girl was grateful for her change in circumstances, but never stopped looking for the blind little sister who let go of her hand on the crowded streets.  Tilly senses that the ghost of this girl will not rest until the fate of her sister is discovered and sets out to solve the mystery.

What the Armchair Critics Thought

The flower girls charity in this novel is based on the Christian Mission established by John Groom in 1866.  The disabled girls employed at the factory were rescued from impoverished circumstances, and did indeed manufacture all of the artificial flowers for the first Alexandra Rose Day.  Both the Alexandra Rose charity and the John Groom organization continue today.  The novel is a slightly saccharine historical romance with some spiritual overtones. There are some unlikely coincidences almost worthy of Dickens. The descriptions of Victorian London are well drawn, especially the scene where the flower girls visit the sea shore.  While the history behind the story is quite interesting, the book is missing some necessary dramatic tension. However, it is a calm, comfortable read for a lazy afternoon, offering escapism and a small history lesson. 



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