65 pages • 2 hours readJacqueline Winspear
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The social and personal consequences of World War I dominate Maisie’s investigation and the character growth she experiences during the case. Winspear argues that war is transformative while underlining its personal devastation for all who encounter it, whether civilians or former military. These transformations are often painful, and whether they continue to damage others depends largely on an individual’s willingness to face them and share their pain with others.
Though the work opens with Maisie embarking on her new, independent career, she is forced to think of the war almost immediately, as Billy recognizes her and mentions Simon Lynch operating on his leg. Billy considers this a “stroke of luck, meeting up with you again” (7). Maisie finds the reminder of Simon painful—Winspear’s choice not to elucidate this underlines that Maisie, too, has deep wounds she has yet to confront fully. Maisie recognizes the absence or signs of war service in others, as she takes in Christopher Davenham and decides, “This one had not been a soldier. In a protected profession, she suspected” (11). Celia Davenham’s deep grief for Vincent underlines that civilian status alone was not protection from suffering: The war also left families in emotional pain. Maisie responds to this with empathy, recognizing the scale of loss.
By Jacqueline Winspear