On April 21, my book club met at Novel Places to discuss A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear, which I reviewed in late March. A Lesson in Secrets is the 8th Maisie Dobbs book, but aside from the member who nominated the book, it was our first time reading the series. We all felt it was a standalone book, and while not everyone loved it as much as I did, we agreed that it was the best book we’d read for the club so far. (We previously read The Picture of Dorian Gray and Star Wars and Philosophy.)
A Lesson in Secrets turned out to be a great book club pick. There was much to discuss, including the murder mystery (which we agreed was somewhat predictable), the children’s book that sparked a mutiny during World War I (which was hard for some of us to believe), the setting (between the world wars, which most of us liked), Maisie herself (with most of us liking how she is a modern woman for the times), and the emergence of Nazi philosophy (which some of us believe should have been more of a focus, given the collegiate debate that is important to the plot). The men tended to think that the book was geared toward women, and while I couldn’t deny that women are more likely to be drawn to it, I argued that the impact of the war on Maisie’s character and a more subtle focus on romantic issues should appeal to men.
I seem to have been the only one who really wants to go back and read the entire series, though a few of us expressed a desire to read more of the books. Overall, it was a good fit for our club and sparked an interesting discussion.
My husband, Jerry, and The Girl both read A Lesson in Secrets for book club and are counting it toward the World War I Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations. (Can you believe they both signed up for the challenge?!?) Jerry didn’t hate the book, but he was hoping there would be more action. He was disappointed that the murder was committed off the pages and that Maisie never seemed to be in any danger when she was snooping around. He has no desire to read more books in the series.
The Girl is committed to reading any book club selection that I think is age appropriate, and I didn’t see any problem with her reading this one. I actually was surprised by her interest in Maisie Dobbs, but as I expected (given that she’s only 11), she found it a bit dull (the lack of action) and dry (the political and philosophical discussions that went over her head). Still, I was impressed that she read it and glad that she at least found much to like in Maisie’s character.
Our book club pick for May is one that I nominated: City of Thieves by David Benioff. I can’t wait to read it and lead the discussion. The May meeting will be a cookout. Great friends, great books, and great food…sounds like a plan to me!
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