From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Girl Who Came Home comes an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two long-lost sisters—orphaned flower sellers—and a young woman who is transformed by their experiences
"For little sister. . . . I will never stop looking for you."
1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden's flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by each other's presence. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.
1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London to become assistant housemother at one of Mr. Shaw's Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the homes have cared for London's orphaned and crippled flower girls, getting them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start, a chance to leave her troubled past behind.
Soon after she arrives at the home, Tilly finds a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora's entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her lost sister. Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie—but the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A memory of violets
This is the best book I have read this year! So much so, I have read it again. Thank you for sharing this story with the world.
A Memory of violets
wonderful book. Interest was peeked by the infamous Eliza Doolittle of "my fair lady I couldn't " resist a peak at this book. From the first chapter I was hooked.
A lovely read that starts slowly to build the scene and moments
There was no way for me to resist this book from the synopsis alone: Hazel Gaynor is mixing up two eras in this historical fiction, all centering on characters that are not usually featured in historic fiction: the underclass.
Strikingly, with all of the economic changes and improvements in the late Victorian Era, society’s treatment and opportunities for the underprivileged and infirm, particularly women and children was not advancing at the same rate. With Flora and Rosie (aged 8 and 4) scrabling to sell watercress and violet posies near Covent Garden in 1876 to Tillie’s arrival at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Violet Girls in 1921 options and the atmosphere haven’t greatly improved.
Flora and Rosie are Irish immigrant’s children, aged 8 and 4, struggling to survive against the odds. But Rosie disappears one day, setting a lifelong quest for Flora. Her arrival at Mr. Shaw’s home, and her life there as she sought to find her sister is one thread of the story.
Matlda or Tillie is just 21, leaving a sheltered and reasonably quiet, if loveless life in the Lake District. The offer of the position of house mother at Mr. Shaw’s home is daunting, but a challenge she finds preferable to the continued recriminations from her mother.
Gaynor skillfully weaves the two stories together after Tillie finds Flora’s journal with the tale of Rosie’s disappearance. Taking the quest on as her own as she explores and investigates, Along the way Tillie comes to grow and learn more of her own potential and capabilities even as the relationship with her employer grows.
Gaynor’s lovely crafting of descriptions, providing perspective and scenes that are not common in most fiction reads keep the reader’s interest, while providing a depth and emotional accessibility that is surprisingly unsentimental. While never stinting on the darker moments: child labor, poverty, prejudice and the struggles for equality and safety juxtapose with patrons of the home and owners of the most luxurious homes in the city. A lovely read that starts slowly to build the scene and moments and soon draws the reader in to the world, loathe to leave.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.