From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Girl Who Came Home comes an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two little sisters - orphaned flower sellers - and the young woman who will be 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 the presence of each other. 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 Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, taking them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start; a chance to leave her troubled past behind.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers 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 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.
This is a special novel, dear readers. I highly suggest you go and pick it up.
Tears constantly rolled down my face while reading it. I felt all the feels with this one. Sadness, happiness, frustration, adoration, pride, satisfaction. Every kind of emotion will be felt. Just a warning.
A mystery, relationships between two sets of sisters, multiple POVs, and multiple settings can be found in A Memory of Violets. And it was all weaved together perfectly. Hazel Gaynor is a genius and is now an auto buy author for me.
She created such heartbreaking stories that managed to pull you in and form the strongest connections with each and every one of her characters. Right off the bat, I knew that this was going to be something extraordinary and ended up dedicating an entire week to this novel so that I could take my time and not rush it. I wanted to give my full undivided attention to these characters who felt so real to me. They deserved it. And by the time I finished it, I was not disappointed at all.
The whole plot was like nothing I have ever read. A home for crippled children who make silk flowers. It was so interesting to read about. Knowing what these children have to endure with their disabilities and not just their physical limitations but the way that people disgrace them, was so depressing to read about but their determination and will to be able to do things on their own was incredible and humbling.
One of my favorite quotes, that I find to be very fitting:
“They’ve shown me that there is always an opportunity to display fortitude in the face of adversity, that it is not up to society to provide us with a sense of belonging and acceptance but rather up to each of us to allow ourselves to belong, to allow ourselves to be accepted.” -pg 87 of eARC
The second plot is what really got to me. Two little girls, sisters, separated from each other quite young. The oldest never forgetting her little sister. Everything about this plot was absolutely agonizing.
Every single character, and there were a lot, had their own unique personality. We didn't get to know a lot of them and I can't go into detail about a lot of them because major spoiler alert but they were all so wonderful to read about.
Tilly has got to be one of my favorite MCs of all time. She was incredibly flawed but cared so much about those girls in Violet House. I related to her on so many levels.
Florrie had me tearing up constantly. Her journal entries were so heartbreaking. The love that she has for her little sister was incredible but so sad to read about as well.
Just the way that everything came together so seamlessly and the way it ended was magnificent. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much Mrs. Gaynor for writing this book. It definitely has a special place in my heart now and has instantly become one of my favorites.
If you love any kind of historical fiction or stories that hit you right in the feels. Then you need to pick up A Memory of Violets.
Characters 4.5/5 Cover 5/5
Introducing….New York Times Bestselling Author Hazel Gaynor
I sometimes describe myself as one part writer, two parts mum and I think this is a pretty accurate description! Life as a writer with two young boys is certainly busy, and far from the idyllic image people might have of a place of calm and serenity to channel my writing muse! Writing happens when the kids are at school and in snatched moments between playdates and rugby training and cooking the dinner. It’s busy, messy and, at times, chaotic – but it’s also wonderful and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
I started writing in 2009, following redundancy when I was in my late 30’s. From my fledgling experience as a parenting blogger, to freelancing for the local press and eventually starting the novel I’d been talking about for years, my route to publication has been far from straightforward. But all the ups and downs, the pain of rejections, the nerves as the book eventually goes out into the world have all been so worth it. To finally see my books in the hands of readers is very special indeed. It just goes to show that you should never give up, and that it is never too late to start.
It was sometime in 2010 when I first started to scribble notes and ideas for a novel based around the lives of London’s flower sellers at the turn of the century. That novel would eventually become A MEMORY OF VIOLETS. I’d loved Pygmalion and My Fair Lady since playing the role of Eliza Doolittle in the school musical (of which there is, unfortunately, video evidence!) I wanted to understand more about the real Elizas – the young women who sold flowers and watercress on the streets of Victorian and Edwardian-era London.
During my research, I was surprised to learn that many of the youngest flower sellers were orphaned, blind or physically disabled in some way. I also discovered the work of Victorian philanthropist, John Groom, who gave many of these young girls and women a home at his ‘crippleage’ where he taught them how to make artificial flowers and took them off the streets. Their work became widely known in London, and eventually led to their involvement in the very first Queen Alexandra Rose Day in June 1912. But it was when I read Henry Mayhew’s, London Labour & The London Poor, in which he records detailed interviews with London’s street sellers from the late 1800s, that I came across an account of two orphaned watercress sellers. I knew immediately that I had found my story and that I wanted to combine the idea of two orphaned sisters with the work of John Groom and his Flower Homes.
Since my debut novel, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, was published in April 2014, I’ve been blown away by the reaction of readers. I love receiving messages through my website and am always very touched when readers take the time to contact me and share their response to my characters. To have watched the novel go from being self-published, to a fully-fledged book published across the USA and to then hit the New York Times bestsellers on three occasions has been simply amazing, and I’m so very grateful to all the readers who made this happen.
I am now very excited to be publishing my second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and can’t wait to see what this next chapter of my writing life will bring.
Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is her second novel.
Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.
Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.
Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.