Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Introduction to the blog

Those of you who are familiar with my historical mystery series featuring 1930's psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs, will know that in creating the character of Maisie Dobbs, I have drawn upon my interest and admiration for the women - of Britain, in particular - who came of age in the years of the Great War, 1914-1918, and who were, effectively, the first generation of women to go to war in modern times, and also to move into "men's work" in great numbers so that men could be released to the battlefield. For many of those women, life would never be the same again. The 1921 census revealed that there were two million "surplus" women of marriageable age in Britain, and only one in ten would have the opportunity of marriage given the great losses of marriageable young men in what became known as "the war to end all wars."

As I created the character of Maisie Dobbs, and as she revealed herself to me - and I think most authors would agree that character development seems to be a two-way process - I wanted her to reflect something of the spirit of that generation. For many years, long before I became a writer of fiction, I had collected books written for, by and about that generation, and was fascinated by the way so many navigated waters that were unfamiliar to them, and who realized that at war's end the landscape of opportunity had changed dramatically for women. There were many who understood that they would have to be responsible for their own financial security for the rest of their lives, that they would have to build community or become invisible, and they would have to nurture relationships to sustain them as they grew older. And so many of these women blazed a trail, moving into public life as never before.

But any one book or article cannot tell the whole story, cannot explore the gray areas - for example, the fact that throughout both the first and second world wars propaganda to encourage women into the workplace could be both encouraging and demeaning, on the one hand offering independence, and on the other reminding women that they would always be playing second fiddle to the men they were replacing.

I have always found these women - who lived, worked and served in the Great War, who navigated their way through the 1920's and 30's, then served again in the Second World War - inspiring, and in the time I have been writing the Maisie Dobbs series, I have come to realize that so many readers are curious about the generations encompassed by this period in time - I've received a great number of letters and emails from women and men of all ages who have been inspired to learn more, and to journey back into their own family archives (even if "archive" amounts to a box of photographs) to discover the history of their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. I have heard from so many readers anxious to share the family stories they've uncovered. Which brings me to this blog.

In each post I'll be delving into the stories and articles about and by this generation of women that I've uncovered during my own research into the era. I would love to hear your stories too, as time goes on. My posts will not be regular - sometimes there might be a couple each week, or a week might go by with no post - so please subscribe to the blog; you'll receive an alert every time a new post is published. It might be a story about a woman of the time, perhaps one of my heroines; an interview with an author who has written a non-fiction book about the era, or a discussion about an article written in a magazine published between the wars with advice that could serve us today. I'll be sharing information on some of the books about this extraordinary generation of women that I have found particularly engaging - and if I like a book enough, I'll buy a second copy and give it away in a competition. Note that I will not be including reviews or opinions on current fiction focused on this generation - there are already many terrific blogs dedicated to new fiction and I don't want to add to that sea of personal opinion. Having said that, you'll see cover art for my own books featured on the site - frankly, I love the covers, so I splash them around whenever I can.

Some time ago I read an article in Britain's Guardian newspaper entitled, "Where are all the daring women's heroines?" Good question. My heroines have invariably come from a period in history that encompassed two world wars, the Depression, the so-called "Roaring Twenties" and the austerity Thirties. I have chosen to name my blog after Maisie Dobbs, the name given to the main character in my novels. In a way she is my everywoman of the time, a woman who is not without her faults, but who stands for a singular generation of women who have fascinated me since girlhood. In mythology, heroines fill us with awe and inspire us. I hope you find this blog interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking. I'll do my best to make it so.


Look out for the next post:  Those Surplus Women, plus a book recommendation to get us started, and a competition!

20 comments:

  1. It brightened this wet, windy and gray day, to learn about your new blog!
    Margaretha

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  2. I have shared this to my Facebook page. Thank you for starting this blog.

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  3. I'm very drawn to this Era. My 24 year old daughter reads books, watches movies and loves this Era as well. Thank you for the blog. I'm looking forward to coming here. Thanks.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  4. I was excited to read your email newsletter and was so happy to learn of the launch of this blog! Congratulations!!

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  5. Looks so interesting! Is there a way to subscribe to your blog via email? I never remember to check my google reader and really want to keep up with this!

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  6. I was needing a Maisie fix just about now, so this is the next best thing. Cheers!

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  7. from Jacqueline

    Thanks so much for your comments - together with the emails I've received, it's great to know that readers are as excited about the blog as I am. Readerwoman - there's a link to subscribe to the blog in the margin on the right of the page. In any case, I'll be back next week with another post!

    And as you can see - so far, I'm the only one having teething problems with the blog! Hopefully sorted out next week ....

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  8. Welcome back to the blogisphere, Jacqueline. I have missed your stories - fact and fiction. :-D Looking forward to keeping up with your blog, as your fascination with that era mirrors mine. However, my own library of WWII spy and other biographies has grown considerably in the last six months. I will look forward to reading about your books. :-D

    Cheers,
    Marianne

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  9. Lovely to hear from you, Marianne. And I have a similar collection about the women of WW11 - I'll be time-traveling back and forth through the whole WW1-WW2 era in this blog, so I am sure you'l have a lot to add to the conversation.

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  10. Happy to find news of your blog launch in my email. Have you bookmarked and ready.

    Marianne - The spy novels and such you refer to, are these all based on women? If so would love to see some of your recommendations.

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  11. Thanks for joining the conversation, FurryReaders. If Marianne doesn't mind me chiming in with a recommendation, one of the best books to start with is A LIFE IN SECRETS by Sarah Helm, about the life of Vera Atkins, who effectively ran the Special Operations Executive (SOE) French Section during WW2. She was an extraordinary woman who, at the end of the war made it her life's work to establish the fate of her agents who were captured by the enemy. Another book about her is SPYMISTRESS by William Stevenson (who has written extensively about the SOE during WW2). In later years she lived in Winchelsea, in Sussex, England.

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  12. I will follow this blog avidly. Thank you! I loved each of the Maisie Dobbs books and now my daughter is embarking on the series.

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  13. My spy bios and other interesting war fact thingies are quite a lot about women. I know of the Vera Atkins books but haven't gotten to them yet. :-D The latest one I read was "Muriel's War: An American Heiress in the Nazi Resistance" by Sheila Isenberg. It was very, very good. And a bit different from the trained spy thing. Of the women spys, I have books on Odette (Churchill), Violette Szabo, Nancy Wake, and others. I must admit, these brave women were my heroes when I was young. A couple of other wonderfully interesting books are Leo Marks' "Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945", and "The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington" by Jennet Conant. I'm not in my study at the studio, so I can't recall all of my books, but I love to read them.

    Oh that's just too funny. Jacqueline, I was just trolling Amazon.com for some of my other spy titles, and amongst the recommendations for this theme is A LESSON IN SECRETS... :-D Too cool.

    Admittedly, I am partial to the English side of WWII and WWI spying and clever boots reactive thinking to the German war machine...they were at it longer. They also unreservedly gave all of their secrets and inventions to the USA during WWII...and got the Lend Lease program and US corporations trying to unfairly monopolize the shipping and air plane transit routes the wake of victory because Americans incorrectly assumed that Britain would try and reinstate her 'empire' in return. Poor Britain...almost completely broken but never subdued. What a great spirit. :-D

    Oh this is going to be so much fun. :-D
    Cheers,
    Marianne

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  14. Thank you for starting this blog. I'm really looking forward to reading your posts. Marianne's right--this IS going to be SO much fun! And it truly made my day to find out the next Maisie Dobbs book will be out in March 2012.

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  15. Thanks, Marianne, for the book list - in fact, down the line I'll be writing about some of the women you mention, and their predecessors in the First World War. And Linda, thanks for your comment - I am already having fun with this blog and so glad you're coming along for the journey!

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  16. cogratulations, jackie and good luck with this new blog! it is good to have you back on a more regular basis.

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  17. Sybille, how wonderful to hear from you on the blog. Yes, I'm back, but with something different - and look forward to your comments and perhaps some insights from the German perspective, as I know many, many women were drafted in to work during WW1 & WW2.

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  18. Just a fan thanking you for all the hours enjoyment I get from your books.

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  19. My entire extended family is enthralled by your work! We spread the Maisie word on a regular basis and constantly get the tv questions.... ;-) So, I happened here and pose the question to you: What is the state of any possible video version of our favorite characters?

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  20. Hi Jacqueline -- I love everything about your books! Especially that they provide me an entertaining and engrossing diversion while taking a break from writing tedious non-fiction!

    Thank you! If I run into you on the streets of SF, I'll say "thank you" in person! Oh, and write faster! I'm almost caught up!

    Best,
    Gina Pera

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