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A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor with Excerpt and GIveaway

How could I resist this title with my love of all things historical? Please be sure to check out the other tour stops and don’t forget to enter the tour wide giveaway where you could win one of Three Print Copies of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME by Hazel Gaynor.

A Memory of Violets

There was no way for me to resist this book from the synopsis alone: Hazel Gaynor is mixing up two eras in this historical fiction, all centering on characters that are not usually featured in historic fiction: the underclass. 

Strikingly, with all of the economic changes and improvements in the late Victorian Era, society’s treatment and opportunities for the underprivileged and infirm, particularly women and children was not advancing at the same rate. With Flora and Rosie (aged 8 and 4) scrabling to sell watercress and violet posies near Covent Garden in 1876 to Tillie’s arrival at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Violet Girls in 1921 options and the atmosphere haven’t greatly improved.

Flora and Rosie are Irish immigrant’s children, aged 8 and 4, struggling to survive against the odds. But Rosie disappears one day, setting a lifelong quest for Flora.  Her arrival at Mr. Shaw’s home, and her life there as she sought to find her sister is one thread of the story.

Matlda or Tillie is just 21, leaving a sheltered and reasonably quiet, if loveless life in the Lake District. The offer of the position of house mother at Mr. Shaw’s home is daunting, but a challenge she finds preferable to the continued recriminations from her mother.

Gaynor skillfully weaves the two stories together after Tillie finds Flora’s journal with the tale of Rosie’s disappearance.  Taking the quest on as her own as she explores and investigates, Along the way Tillie comes to grow and learn more of her own potential and capabilities even as the relationship with her employer grows.

Gaynor’s lovely crafting of descriptions, providing perspective and scenes that are not common in most fiction reads keep the reader’s interest, while providing a depth and emotional accessibility that is surprisingly unsentimental. While never stinting on the darker moments: child labor, poverty, prejudice and the struggles for equality and safety juxtapose with patrons of the home and owners of the most luxurious homes in the city.  A lovely read that starts slowly to build the scene and moments and soon draws the reader in to the world, loathe to leave.

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor with Excerpt and GIveaway

Title: A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: William Morrow
ISBN: 0062316893
Published on: 3 February 2015
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 432
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 29 minutes
Rated: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
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About the Book:

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Hazel Gaynor comes a beautiful historical novel about Tilly Harper, a young woman who finds the diary of an orphaned flower seller who was separated from her sister in Victorian England, and her journey to learn the fate of the long lost sisters. Gaynor’s research into the events that inspire her novels is outstanding, and the world of the Victorian flower sellers on the streets of London in the late 1800s is utterly fascinating.

In 1912, twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves her sheltered home in the Lake District for a position as assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. Orphaned and crippled girls wander the twisted streets with posies of violets and cress to sell to the passing ladies and gentleman, and the Flower Homes provide a place for them to improve their lives of hardship.

When Tilly arrives at Mr. Shaw’s safe haven, she discovers a diary that tells the story of Florrie, a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after being separated from her sister Rosie. Tilly makes it her mission to find out what happened to young Rosie, and in the process learns about the workings of her own heart.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Tasty Excerpt

 

Rosie Flynn had known many bad things in her short life—cold, hunger, exhaustion, sadness, death, and cruelty—but she had never known terror like that which she felt as she ran to get away from the man who had grabbed her.

She ran and ran, darting wildly through the crowds, bumping into people, stumbling forward, then backward, a blur of grainy shadows and strange shapes all that she could make out. She had no idea what she was running toward. All she knew was that she had to get away from him. From the bad man.

She couldn’t think. Couldn’t breathe, almost choked by the panicked breaths that caught in her throat, as she struggled to get away; struggled to understand what had happened.

She wanted to scream, to cry out, “Florrie! Florrie! Where are ye?” But she didn’t, knowing that by shouting she’d only draw unwelcome attention to herself. So she stayed silent and kept running through the terrifying, shadowy world she inhabited.

Without her sister’s hands and eyes to guide her, she quickly became lost and bewildered. A strange sound came from deep within her—a whine, like that of a frightened animal. She’d felt Florrie fall, felt her hand wrenched from her sister’s. She’d heard the clatter of Florrie’s crutch hitting the road, the mutterings of people inconvenienced by having to step over a child on the ground. She’d stood perfectly still, as Florrie had always told her to if ever they became separated. “Stay right where ye are, and I’ll find ye. It’s best not to go wandering off.”

But within seconds of Florrie falling, strong hands had grabbed Rosie around her waist, whisking her away, her legs dangling in the air, a hand covering her mouth so that she couldn’t scream. She’d smelled the sweet, sticky scent of lemonade on the rough, manly hands smothering her mouth and knew immediately who had taken her. “Don’t look at ’im, Rosie. Don’t look in his eyes.”

Struggling and thrashing with what little strength she had in her frail body, she’d wriggled enough to make the man adjust his grip as he tried to get a tighter hold of her. That was when she’d grabbed a piece of his stinking, hairy flesh between her teeth, biting down as hard as she could on the back of his hand. Howling in pain, he’d lost his grip and dropped her. Scrambling to her feet, she’d started to run.

The usually familiar noises of a busy Sunday became strangely amplified in her terror, startling her at every twist and turn: hawkers shouting their wares—strawberries, hokey-pokey, gingerbread, knives to grind; the laughter and cheer of the crowd gathered around the Silly Billy entertainer; the lilting notes of the organ grinders and the chatter of their monkeys; beggars pleading with passersby; horses’ hooves thudding past; dogs barking and snapping at her heels; children bawling in their perambulators. Twice, she was knocked to her knees by the thick legs of burly men who didn’t notice a frightened child darting among them, running for her life. What would they care even if they did?
 

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About Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is her second novel.

Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.

Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

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