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.
Vivian Daly was 8 years old when she woke to a house fire and was put into the custody of an organization that distributed orphans to foster families out in the country. She rode a train full of other children like herself, some gathered up from the streets and gutters. She is placed into a family, but quickly finds out that she is not intended to be a child, but to work for them without pay except room and board…When the depression hits, things unravel quickly, and she finds herself bouncing from home to home, trying to find her place in the world and survive as best she can, only her able body and her wits on her side.
Molly Ayer is a 17-year-old girl who has been in “the system” for many years. She has bounced from foster situation to foster situation, and she has learned that she has no one to count on but herself. She dyes her hair, gets piercings, wears gothic makeup…Whatever it takes to get people to just leave her alone. When she is sentenced to 50 hours of community service and placed in the home of an elderly woman named Vivian, she knows the whole thing is going to be a big snooze fest…But she finds that she and this old woman are not so different from one another. And an unlikely bond forms between these two strong women.
Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, is a novel about the parallels and patterns in life that travel from generation to generation, the darkest sides of humanity, the people who stand up for others and the people who only care about themselves, and the pain of real life and hardship. This novel is not warm and fuzzy, although the end is very uplifting. More sensitive readers will want Kleenex nearby, as the flaws in the foster system of both generations are unearthed and exposed mercilessly. This novel is beautiful and intense, and I couldn’t put it down. Great story. Period.