A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by, Hazel Gaynor
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, this was a very interesting look at a sad time in London history when there were many homeless children who would sell flowers and watercress on the streets by day and sleep in doorways by night. Some did have families but going there and being beaten was worse than sleeping on the streets.
We first meet , sisters Florrie and Rosie who is almost blind and Florrie has a problem with her leg they live with their parents, a sick mother and abusive father, they sell their violets and watercress in the markets when their mother dies and the father is not someone you'd want to be around, then the father dies too, that is when Rosie and Florrie spend the most time sleeping on the streets. Rosie and Florrie are inseparable, Florrie always tells Rosie don't let go of my hand no matter what don't let go until the worst happens and one day Rosie’s hand slips out of Florrie’s and she's gone.
In the second part of the story we meet Tilly we are not sure what exactly happened to Tilly’s sister but we know whatever it was Tilly was blamed for it and that life at home is not happy at all, so she seeks a position as a housemother at the Violet house home for orphan watercress and flower girls.
We also meet Mr. Shaw the benefactor of the Training Home for Watercress and Violet girls where he takes them in, gives them a home and teaches them to make silk flowers to sell, including making thousands and thousands of roses for the first Queen Alexandra Rose Day. Mr. Shaw also takes Florrie in after she loses Rosie and gives her a purpose and a home. In a twist of coincidence Tilly ends up in the room Florrie had been in and finds her journals detailing her life-long search for her sister Rosie. We do not find out what happened to Rosie until much later in the book.
This book is sad and hopeful all at the same time we get to see Tilly blossom and become stronger with every step she makes away from her home, she becomes a much loved housemother at Violet House, she also enjoys her time at the Clacton Orphanage and starts to feel at home and comfortable in her own skin. Florrie’s story is also sad but there is hope there too.
I don’t want to give anymore away than I already have, this was such an interesting story I never knew about these flower girls. This book is fiction but I was able to find out more about the real Flower Girls home and the Alexandra Rose Charities that truly exist but were elaborated upon for the book. The story of these 3 girls and also Mr. Shaw’s story were quite fascinating and I would highly recommend this well written book that you won’t be able to put down and will end up reading into the wee hours of the night!
This is the second book by Hazel Gaynor I have thoroughly enjoyed and I look forward to reading anything else she writes.
I was lucky enough to get an early review copy of this book from Edelweiss and the Publisher for a fair and honest review.
This is an interesting link to the actual training home for watercress and flower girls
Here is the history of the Alexandra Rose Charities starting with the event that took place in the book in 1912. (the book is fiction but so well researched )