ISBN-13: 9780062316899
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 3 February 2015
Format: Paperback, 432 pgs
Source: Publisher

Set in Victorian London, A Memory of Violets is a historical story about two long-lost sisters and how their stories had intrigued and inspired a young woman's journey and changed her outlook of life thereafter. 

1876. Flora and Rosie Flynn are orphans and they sell flowers for a living. Their mother passed away after giving birth to Rosie; and their father died shortly thereafter. The girls are not close with their father as he didn't really care about them. Before their mother passed, she gave each of them a lace handkerchief with a cluster of shamrocks neatly stitched in one corner, saying that it'd bring them both good luck. 

Despite the hardships, Flora and Rosie strive on and are more than contented to have each other together. To Flora, Rosie is more than a promise to their late mother; she is Flora's everything. But what's most heartbreaking is learning that Flora is crippled and has to rely on a crutch while Rosie is partially sighted, however these do not deter Flora's faith but has made her more determined to provide a living for the both of them. Unfortunately, Flora lost her little sister in a crowded street one day and they become separated. 

1912. Tilly Harper is a twenty-one-year-old girl who leaves home for London to become assistant housemother at a Mr. Albert Shaw's Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls. It is home to many orphaned and crippled flower girls and they are all trained to make silk flowers for sale. What most made Mr and Mrs Shaw proud of the girls are not only they could make replica flowers which look so lifelike but their spirit and seeing them all getting on with the business of living as if they are able. 

While Tilly is fascinated by the girls' zest in both life and their works, her mind keeps thinking about a wooden box she found hidden in her wardrobe. In the box is an old notebook and some pressed flowers hidden between the pages. As she read Flora Flynn's entries she learns about Flora's guilt and remorse in losing her little sister, and that she never stopped looking for her. Intrigued and touched by Flora's determination, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. 

A Memory of Violets is a wonderful historical novel that really speak to me. Author Hazel Gaynor is a great storyteller in the sense that not only her characters and the premise shine throughout the story but she has also done an excellent job in writing up the historical setting. I felt I was transported into that time period through the characters' perspectives. 

As much as this is the story about Flora and Rosie, it is also Tilly's story as readers get to learn about her past, her relationship with her family and how a childhood accident had affected her relationship with her younger sister, Esther. There are some paranormal and romance elements in there but they are minimal. Still, in some ways they are an equivalent part to the story. 

Finally, I like the author's writing style and the way she wrapped up this story. From the last few pages of this book, the author share with her readers that there is a real 'Albert Shaw' in real life by the name of John Groom and he grew up in Clerkenwell, London. Though he had his own engraving business, he knew his calling actually lay in helping the street sellers; people like Flora and the girls from the Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls (which existed too, in 1890). He died in 1919 and his legacy continues as Livability, the UK's largest Christian disability charity, which aims to provide disabled and disadvantaged people real choice about how they live their lives. 
8 Responses
  1. jenclair Says:

    What a lovely cover! I especially like that there is a historical basis for Albert Shaw and that there was a a training home for Watercress and Flower Girls. Great review!

  2. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - That cover is pretty isn't it? I like it that the author wrote Albert Shaw based on a real person. It makes the novel more emotionally filled. I felt so much for Flora and her friends at the training home so I can imagine how the lives are for the girls in reality.

  3. Iliana Says:

    Oh Melody, I really like the sound of this one. This sort of reminds me the style of some books by Susanna Kearsley. Mixing some historical fiction with a bit of romance and a modern setting. Will have to add it to my list!

  4. Melody Says:

    Iliana - I enjoyed this book so much! I hope you'll like it as much as I did. :)

  5. The Bookworm Says:

    I've had my eye on A Memory of Violets and your review makes me want to read it even more. It sounds great, I love it when an author weaves in historical fact with fiction.
    Great review!

  6. Melody Says:

    Naida - It was a great story, Naida! And so emotional and character-driven as well. I hope you'll like it! :)

  7. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this one, Melody. It is on my TBR shelf to read. I love historical fiction and yet don't read the genre nearly enough.

  8. Melody Says:

    Wendy - I'm glad you've this book on your TBR shelf, Wendy. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did. :)

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