Here more than in any other episode in the Maisie Dobbs series, Winspear moves away from the Great War of the past and toward the uncertainties and conflicts yet to come. Maisie herself is the perfect guide through whom to see it all: an intelligent, no-nonsense, working-class girl who has found love with wealthy James Compton while reinventing herself as a modern, independent woman for a new and perilous age.
Everything Most Loved
finds Maisie at one of life’s most critical junctures. As 1933 comes to a close
and war chimes sound across the Channel, Maisie is filled with a desire to
travel to the Indian subcontinent and garner a wisdom that her mentor, Maurice
Blanche, so heavily promoted. But Maisie remains troubled by those to whom she
feels responsible--to her father, Frankie, and her loyal employees Billy and
This urge to transform dreams into reality is pivotal to the core of the story, reflecting the desires of Usha Primal who--as the novel opens--is waiting to sail away from “this grey country.” When a tight little gang of street urchins discover Usha‘s
lifeless body along the Grand Surrey canal path, Maisie is unable comprehend a crime that at first seems to be racially motivated. While Usha’s brother, distinguished Major Pramal, remains beaten by grief, neither Maisie nor DI Caldwell from Scotland Yard’s murder squad can think who would
possibly want to take the life of his sister, a woman who saw the very best in everyone.
Maisie sees the look of despair and yearning in Major Pramal’s eyes, almost like “a soul’s open wound.”
She descends further into the case, the half-open shell of Usha’s life becoming “a tide-pool of ideas” connected by several threads of evidence. It seems that Usha was of
Maisie's own ilk--a kindly, educated woman with an independence of character. Considered a “goddess on earth,” Usha
possessed particular healing powers and was fostering the attentions of a certain English gentleman, a slight against her family’s
rigid moral code.
When Usha’s best friend, Maya Patel, seeks to confide beyond the secrets shared in their dingy accommodations, Maisie learns
that the girls were bought together by more than the common experience of exile. Gradually, Winspear reveals the pasts of both Usha and Maya: their painful existence in a country that had abandoned them; the self-obsessed Paiges, their Christian beliefs masking a grubby attempt to exploit the vulnerable; the savage cruelties of a merciless father and a war-damaged son; and the opaque secrets of a local Reverend who tells of a darker side of discrimination, “a snigger here or an unkind word there.”
While it was clear that Usha’s family and friends had always been her champions, the years
were not kind to her. Maisie comes to feel as though she were looking at Usha through a kaleidoscope. A myriad of colors flash into her mind’s eye as she learns of two Indian girls who
came to one another only to find themselves cast out by the world around them. Through their interactions
aw well as a series of vivid set-pieces within London’s inner city tenements, makeshift canals, and houses of gentry, Usha’s murder is solved and the power of the title is finally established.
The heart of this gorgeous novel continues to be the compelling love story between Maisie and James, unsatisfied yet still heavy with passion, the couple soul mates but destined to remain apart--at
least for now. Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Maisie stalls in her tearful promises of marriage, the visceral feeling growing inside of her--this
urge to be gone, to be at a place other than this here and now.