Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Memory of Violets: An Absolutely Lovely Historical Read

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower SellersThey've shown me that there is always an opportunity to display fortitude in the face of adversity, that it is not up to society to provide us with a sense of belonging and acceptance but rather up to each of us to allow ourselves to belong, to allow ourselves to be accepted.

I thought this an absolutely lovely read. At first I worried it would be a difficult read due to the grammar of Florrie, but she doesn't narrate the entire story and once I became adjusted to the whats in place of thats, I realized the narrative suited her and her situation and that it also served to make her and Tilly's parts immediately distinguishable. So I advise readers who are often deterred by poor grammar to keep reading.

There's so much going on here, so many stories that will either make you sad, angry, or happy. There's a myriad of emotions within these pages. It's heartbreaking to read about the flower sellers and the extreme poverty of 1800s London. It's uplifting to learn about John Groom (Albert Shaw in the story) and how he saved so many orphans, crippled, and blind flower sellers and gave them homes and a purpose: the making of fake flowers. The whole Queen Alexandra day really happened and it's an inspiring thing to read about. It's infuriating to read about a woman who though her intentions were good, her reasons were selfish, when she deprives another of the only person they have in the whole world.

But what I enjoyed the most about this story is how Tilly goes to work with the crippled and blind and at first distinguishes each one by their handicap. As the story continues, she sees the error in that way of thinking and no longer sees their handicaps, but who they are individually. Many people today should take such advice to heart. I also appreciated the difference between Esther--a handicapped child with no purpose in life, coddled, pitied--and the flower girls--handicapped but self-reliant as much as possible and happy to have a purpose each day. It's so important and her story line served to show us this.

I have failed to mention the story itself...a quick bit: There are two story lines, the late 1870s and 1912. In 1912, Tilly leaves her home in Northern England to work in Albert Shaw's home for orphaned flower girls, where she overseas and cares for handicapped young women who work in a flower-making factory. She finds a journal from a previous resident, Florrie, who lost her beloved sister in 1876. While Tilly tries to track down the missing sister, she also comes to find out some truths in her own family life and learns to forgive herself for a past misdemeanor.

Loved the writing, the characters (except Mrs. Ingram. Grrr.), the story itself, and the morals within. My quibble has to be that there were far too many coincidences. Though they mostly tied up very nicely with a beautiful ending, I thought there were a bit too many. Perhaps the final revelation from Tilly's life could have been left out as it was a coincidence that added nothing to the tale really. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers)

I received an ARC via LibraryThing.


  1. I love a book that brings out so many conflicting emotions. Gotta try this one.