A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor, is definitely making it onto my top 10 books for 2015. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a penchant for long, descriptive stories full of mystery and family secrets. Kate Morton and Katherine Webb are my favorite authors of all time. Who didn’t love The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough? I was surprised when Hazel Gaynor’s latest novel sucked me in, right away, and I had a feeling right from the beginning that I was in for a ride.
A Memory of Violets is about two girls born into poverty in the 1800s, into a life of selling flowers on street corners. Flora and Rosie barely have food to live on, but they have one another. One horrific day they are separated in a crowd and the never see one another again. Flora spends the rest of her days looking for her baby sister-and Rosie, too young to know how to get back home, must adapt to a new life. Years later, Tilly Harper finds the journal of Flora when she starts a job at Mr. Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls-and she feels compelled to find out just what happened to Flora, and what happened to her lost baby sister Rosie.
If you read The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan, or , or you have a taste for novels that tear brutally at your heartstrings but come together in the end with perfect closure and new beginnings for much-loved characters, you won’t want to miss A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor. This reviewer couldn’t put it down.
Enza and Ciro grew to adolescence in the mountains of Italy, their lives crossing one another but never meeting, until Ciro arrives to help bury her little sister and the two are pulled into a saga of near misses and everlasting love that lasts for decades. Ciro learns that he must leave the convent where he has been living, bound to be a shoemaker’s apprentice in America. Enza stays with her family, but as they begin to lose everything to horrible luck and heartache, she finds herself on a boat, also headed to America. In some stroke of luck in the overcrowded city, they find one another again-but the timing is not right and they divide to follow their separate destinies. She gets low-level work in a factory and meets a friend who convinces her that they can do better, giving her the strength to pursue dreams she never thought she deserved to realize. She finds herself in the job of her dreams, a seamstress at The Metropolitan, creating costumes for the opera singers, and she finds a man who immediately adores her, and they become engaged. In the meantime, Ciro leaves to serve America in the Great War. But Enza has not seen the end of Ciro. The two meet again, and she finds that she must answer the questions that have haunted her since that first kiss on the mountain in the Italian Alps. Can she say goodbye to Ciro, for once and for all?
This is a novel about everlasting love, destiny (both manifested and otherwise), following your heart and taking risks in the pursuit of happiness. More than anything, this is the story of two Italian Immigrants trying to make their way to happiness in a time when everything was against them. The reality of this novel will strike the more sensitive readers brutally. Lives are lost, hearts are broken, and greatest fears are met-this tale is beautiful and moving, and at times, unbelievably heartbreaking.
If you loved The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Ackerman, The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough, which address love at it’s most painful and families that endure unbelievable strain, then this novel, The Shoemaker’s Wife, by Adriana Trigiani, is a must-read for you. And don’t be put off by the slow start-the story gets much better than you expect. I Promise.