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Reader’s Den, Biblio File

August in the Reader’s Den: "Maisie Dobbs" Follow Up and Further Reading Suggestions

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Thank you for joining us this month in the Reader’s Den. I hope you enjoyed the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Birds of a Feather and Pardonable Lies are the next two books in the series. 

Here are a few suggestions if you want to read other novels set in World War I or the post-war period, or if you want to find more information about World War I and some of the issues addressed in Maisie Dobbs:

Fiction

Novelist Anne Perry is probably best-known for her two mystery series set in Victorian London with police detectives Monk and Pitt, but she has also written a mystery series set in World War I.   

  1. No Graves As Yet
  2. Shoulder the Sky            
  3. Angels in the Gloom         
  4. At Some Disputed Barricade  
  5. We Shall Not Sleep         

In Maisie Dobbs, Dr. Maurice Blanche gives Dobbs a recently published book by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, first published in book form in 1929 and translated into English in 1930. 

Another classic novel about World War I is Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, also published in 1929. 

Author Michael Morpurgo has written a couple of award-winning books set in war-time Devon, Private Peaceful and War Horse. War Horse was adapted into a successful Broadway play and won five Tony Awards in 2011. The story is also a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg and will be released in the United States on December 28, 2011. Private Peaceful is also a film, slated to begin production in September 2011. (See Jenny Baum's blog post for more information.)

Another fictional sleuth working in London at the same time as Dobbs is Agatha Christie’s famous retired police detective Hercule Poirot, a World War I refugee from Belgium. Below is a list of his fictional exploits in 1920s London

The blog Overbooked has additional suggestions for World War I fiction, and Goodreads has both fiction and non-fiction suggestions.  

Non-Fiction

There are many non-fiction sources available. The History Learning Site for World War One is where I found that the 306 British soldiers executed for treason during the War (many of them probably suffering from shell shock) were officially pardoned in November 2006. 

Author Vera Brittain experienced in real life many of Dobb’s fictional travails. She was a student at Oxford, became a nurse, and lost her fiancée in the Great War. She finished her degree after the war and in 1933 published her most well-known work, Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925. One hallmark of Brittain’s life, consistent with other WWI veterans and survivors, is the sense of loss that remained with her throughout her life.  

Among Brittain’s contemporaries were other literary figures who suffered from the War, specifically British poet Siegfriend Sassoon, whose wartime experiences bear some resemblance to those of Major Jenkins in Maisie Dobbs. Partly through the intervention of comrade-in-arms Robert Graves (author of the novel I, Claudius), Sassoon was treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh, the kind of place where veterans like Simon Lynch were sent for treatment and convalescence. There he met poet Wilfred Owen, another shell shock victim who was killed in action November 1918.  

Oxford University’s The First World War Poetry Digital Archives site offers film clips from the last three years of the war and podcasts of oral histories and interviews. Another site, Aftermath, concentrates on what the survivors did after The Great War to remember the fallen; it includes many titles for further reading and links to other sites.

If you have any book recommendations or comments on Maisie Dobbs, please post them below in the comments section! Thank you for participating in the Reader's Den, and don't forget to come back to the Reader's Den in September to discuss the book Sweetness and Blood.    

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