Review of “A Memory of Violets” by Hazel Gaynor

Gaynor, Hazel. A Memory of Violets. New York: William Morrow, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-231689-9. $14.99 USD. 

4.5 stars

This is yet another wonderful, compulsively readable book from Hazel Gaynor. This book, like many of her other works, has memorable characters woven into a wonderful historical concept, which shines new light on something that isn’t really talked about in the history books, with issues like children living in poverty and the way people with disabilities were often ostracized.

And once again, she also juggles two, interconnected timelines with ease, and the way Tilly was connected to Flora/Florrie was not what I initially expected. My one complaint comes from the writing style, which differs slightly from her other dual timeline books in that the sections from Florrie’s perspective are written in first person, while sections from Tilly, Margeurite, and Rosie/Violette’s POV are in third person. This is not immediately objectionable, as Florrie’s journal is the historical artifiact at the center of the book, but the full chapters written from her perspective are written in present tense, while the extracts of the journal that Tilly reads are written in past tense, presenting some confusion as to whether Florrie’s chapters were meant to be part of the narrative of the journal or not.

However, once I adapted to the flow of the writing style, I was able to more easily focus on some of the parallels between the two stories, dealing with contrasting relationships between adoptive parents and daughters, and different, but evolving, relationships between sisters. Despite some of the odd writing choices, this is still a beautiful book, that, like Gaynor’s other work, culminates in an ending that will leave the reader satisfied.

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