This book alternates between two narratives, the first of which describes a pair of poor Irish immigrant orphans living on the streets of London in 1876 and who try to sell flowers in order to survive. Flora, who is 8, is crippled, and Rosie, who is 5, is blind and although they have wretched lives the one thing that they do have is each other. This part of the narrative is so pathetic and heart-wrenching that I almost gave up on the book because I could not take the sadness any longer.
The other part of the narrative takes place in 1912, when a young woman named Tilly moves to London to become a house mother at a Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. All of the girls who work at the home are handicapped in some way and if it were not for this training home they would be living on the streets in abject poverty. At the home the girls learn to make flowers out of fabric and the flowers are sold to vendors around London.
Tilly’s story is rather sad as well and we learn that she has had her own family troubles. But coming to London and taking care of the girls at the home is a happy endeavor for which she is most grateful. While Tilly is at the training home, she discovers a diary in the back of her closet written by the orphan girl Flora. One day while they are selling their flowers, Flora and Rosie get separated on the streets of London and Flora ends up living at the home. Tilly reads Flora’s diary and tries to discover what became of the two sisters and if they ever had the chance to reunite.
A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is a glimpse at the harsh reality of orphaned children living in the streets of London in the 19th century. The characters will definitely leave an impression on the reader. Although the narrative is sad and tragic at the beginning, my advise is to keep on turning the pages because the story does have a good ending.
About The Author:
Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the U.K. and was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers in 2012. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children, and an accident-prone cat.
I have a paperback copy of the book to giveaway, open to US residents only. Just leave a comment below and let me know you want to win! The winner will be notified via e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond. Giveaway ends 2/18.
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