Summary: In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, 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. (Excerpt from Goodreads)
My Thoughts: I’ve never read anything by Hazel Gaynor before even after hearing so many great things about The Girl Who Came Home which came out last year. However, when I read the summary of A Memory of Violets and saw that it was going on tour with Tasty Book Tours, I knew I had to bump this up on my list – and I am so glad that I did! A Memory of Violets is such an emotional story and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This story touches on the bonds of sisterhood and is about never giving up, regardless of your circumstance or misfortune.
The story goes back and forth between the past and present focusing on two particular characters. Tilly, a young woman who just left her home to become a housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls, a place where girls who are orphaned or crippled can come to live and make beautiful fake flowers. And then there’s Florrie, a flower girl who lived at the same house (and even in the same room as Tilly) and passed away years after being separated from her sister Rosie. The two stories connect when Tilly, after just arriving to the home finds Florrie’s diary and is enthralled by Florrie and Rosie’s story. I loved reading from both perspectives and seeing how the two storylines intersected; it added a lot more to the story and made the book even more enjoyable to read.
Gaynor’s storytelling is so powerful and I loved the author’s writing in this book. When she described the intricacies of the flowers that the girls made, I felt like I was there in London taking in and enjoying their beauty. And when Gaynor described the extremely filthy and shocking situations the girls grew up in, I felt like I was there in the streets watching and aching for them to have a better life. However, the characters are what made the story so special for me; the women and children at Mr. Shaw’s Home were remarkable and showed unimaginable strength and courage.
A Memory of Violets is a beautiful story about second chances and loving people for who they truly are. This book gave me chills and had me bawling like a baby throughout; make sure you have the tissues handy. I received this book as part of a book tour but I ended up buying two copies and giving them out as gifts because I loved the story so much. I can’t wait to go back and read Gaynor’s first novel; I’m sure I will love it as much as I did this one.