Monday, March 16, 2009

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

16. An Incomplete Revenge - fifth in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2008
paperback, 303 pages
finished, 3/15/09

I was so pleased when my friend Judi gave this to me for my birthday. It is a rare treat, and one all readers can appreciate, to be able to read two or more of a series back-to-back. The minute I closed Messenger of Truth, I began An Incomplete Revenge.

In this book, we travel to a place which is wrapped in pain and darkness. During the First World War, a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on a small village in Kent, killing the local baker, his wife, and daughter. Word was later received that the son was killed in battle. Many, many sons from the village also died in the war. This in itself could create such a feeling of grief, but there have also been acts of vandalism and suspicious fires over the years since the attack. They occur during the hops-picking season in September, when Londoners and gypsies come to work in the fields. The villagers distrust these two groups, and anyone else who is an outsider. Maisie is hired by a company, which wants to buy part of the local estate which houses a brickworks, to find out what is behind the episodes.

Though in many ways, the darkest of the Maisie Dobbs books so far, I really liked An Incomplete Revenge. We learn much about the Romany gypsy culture, including some of the language. I was very interested in the lurcher, the "dog of the gypsies." We get to know more about Maisie's assistant, Billy Beale, and how his family is coping with something that happened in Messenger of Truth. We hear about people from other countries who have changed their names to better 'fit into' English life. We also learn about bullying in schools, and what happens to both parties when they reach manhood. It is a book absolutely packed with historical and societal information, as well as more of Maisie's personal life. I just loved it.

At the very end of the book, Maisie's friend Priscilla gives her a gramophone and a record by "a gypsy now famous in Paris, a man who had blended French passion with the spark of the Roma."

Here is Django Reinhardt on guitar doing Minor Swing, which you may recognize from the movie Chocolat.

The next in the series, Among the Mad has just come out and I'll be buying it next year in paperback to join all the others on the shelf. These are books I can happily read again and again.


  1. Hi Nan:

    My Daughter is a Maisie Dobbs fan as well, and has been putting books on my "to be read shelf". I think I shall have to get them down and make a start on them.

  2. I read the first Maisie Dobbs a few months ago and though I enjoyed it, I found too much of the modern author (and modern thought) in the tale ... anachronistic ... and decided not to read any further in the series. But ... I trust your reviews a lot, so may reconsider!

  3. Thanks for sharing the youtube video - I love that song, along with the entire Chocolat soundtrack.

  4. I loved that song from Chocolat! Thanks for letting us hear it again. That book series sounds like something I'd love.

  5. I've seen this book here and there and wondered what it was about. Now after reading your thoughts I'm going to mark it as a must-read!!

    Love your header with all of the beautiful deer!!

  6. I've had this in the tbr stack for a year now - just because I'm saving it! I love these MD books and consider them a treat. I think the 4th was probably my least favorite so far.

  7. Donna, you won't be sorry! Such, such a great series.

    Becca, I actually read your review, and should have commented. I can't say with any authority, but I have read some new books written about the past, and thought 'oh, they didn't use that phrase then' or 'that sort of thing didn't happen in those days' only to look them up and find they were not new at all. I wish I could think of examples right now. And so, I wonder if it might be true in MD too. I don't have my copy right now since I loaned it to-actually rather pushed it on a friend.:<)

    Alison, the whole Chocolat experience was a perfect one for me. I loved the book, the movie, and the soundtrack. The book and movie weren't the same, but I thought them equally good.

    Debbie, thanks for writing. I so love the MD books.

    Staci, thank you, and I'm quite sure you will become a fan. And just think of all the fun reading ahead. You could read one right after the other, and really be absorbed in her world.

    Tara, it is hard for me to say in terms of favorites when I read a series because it just seems like another adventure, another life experience for the main character. In each one, she learns more about herself, as we do. And we learn more about the war experience and its repercussions. In this one, that experience was particularly unsettling. Well, I guess it is in An Incomplete Revenge too, and all the others. There are layers upon layers. So much to learn. And JWinspear makes that learning so fulfilling because of viewing them through Maisie's eyes and experiences.

  8. That sounds like one that would interest me. I'm going to jot it down in my pocket calendar or I'll never remember it. I'd be especially interested to learn more about gypsy culture

  9. Hi Nan!
    My mother, 90, myself and my grown up daughter all love the Maisie Dobbs book. I gather from your post that we have a lot to look forward to since not all of the ones you mentioned are translated yet.

  10. Larry, you might like to begin with the first one, and go on. There is a lot of character development and information that comes with each book. It is a wonderful, wonderful series.

    Christina, that's pretty high praise, isn't it, when all ages like a series of books?

  11. You do manage to find such interesting books that I have never heard of, thank you so much for that. I love lurchers, a couple of friends have them and they are very special dogs, tremendously intelligent and loving too. Do you have them in the U.S?


  12. I love Maisie Dobbs! She is an amazing character, with brains, insight and compassion. I like the fact that she doesn't consider any case completed until she has brought her clients to a place of consolation.

  13. Carole, I say with some assurance that you will love this series. Maisie is a great character, and the other continuing characters are so interesting. The author's website is a great place to visit.

    A common weeder, I agree with everything you said. And I love the way at the end of a case, she goes around to all the important places in the investigation.

  14. Thank you for posting this—I am now happily immersed in the first book, and the next three are waiting for me. I do love Maisie! These will go on the 're-read periodically' shelf with my Elizabeth Goudge books.

  15. Are you my friend Anita in Texas?? I think Maisie is just the best character, and the stories are so interesting to me. I read some EG years ago, and liked the books. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  16. Hi Nan!

    I recently found Maise Dobbs sitting quietly on the library shelf, discovered a new friend and now, synchronistically, she appears in your review. I would say coincidence but I think Maisie would disagree.

    Thanks so much for your blog. There I was googling the "ineffable holiness" quote and came upon that holiness here! You seem to be a long distance friend or sister w/ whom I share many music and book faves. Keep them coming.

    By the by, have you read The School of Essential Ingredients?

  17. Candy, what a lovely comment. Thank you so very much. I do love that quote, as I love Jan K's books. I like that about Maisie 'disagreeing' - You are right. :<) She is such a wonderful character. I've jotted down the book title in my 'books to check out' book. Thanks.

  18. I just finished listening to Inc. Revenge on cd and enjoyed it, though I found the conclusion, the actual answer to the "whodunnit" part, a little awkward. However, that aspect tends to be secondary when I read those novels! They have really helped me to understand the impact WWI had on a whole culture, and I admire the job Winspear has done recreating that experience.

    For those who didn't like Maisie at the first outing, I highly recommend the audio version, as listening to the reader ( whose name escapes me) made the difference. What seemed overdone in print just worked in her lovely accent. Not sure why, but now I can enjoy them in either format!

  19. No, I'm Anita in North Carolina. And I'm now on the third book—I am not accomplishing much else this week! Also, I've realized how little I know about WWI, and am in the process of remedying that via the local used bookstore.

  20. Leamonteach, thanks for stopping by. I went to your blog - Ellsworth! Many years ago we went on a vacation to Bar Harbor, and saw Blade Runner at the movie theatre there. I do understand about the ending or conclusion to An Incomplete Revenge. It seemed unbelievable to me, but yet, I've watched episodes of Foyle's War dealing with the Second World War, and seen the way people at home could be stirred up. I so loved the gypsy connection, and where the dog ended up!

  21. Anita, thanks so much for coming back to tell me! There's a tremendous book and source of the First World War information by Vera Brittain, called Testament of Youth. It was a PBS program many years ago. More info on her and her other books here:

    This page has many links to that war.

  22. Thank you, Nan—I have ordered Vera Brittain's book, and I will definitely check out the website!

  23. Anita, that's so great! I'll be interested in your response.


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